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Australia is failing those with mental illness – damning new report

Australia is failing those with mental illness – damning new report

Australia is failing those with mental illness – damning new report

A new report paints a grim picture of the treatment of Australians with mental illness issues received in emergency departments.

Four million Australians deal with a chronic or episodic mental illness issues each year. Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Australians present to emergency departments seeking help for acute mental and behaviour conditions each year.

A damning new report is claiming that Australia is failing such patients when they are most at need, leading to extreme wait times, long periods of treatment and patients leaving before they are treated.

That’s the blunt assessment of a report from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine – The Long Wait:  An Analysis of Mental Health Presentations to Australian Emergency Departments.

“The experiences that people with mental health crises seeking help from emergency departments are having across Australia aren’t good enough,” says ACEM President Dr Simon Judkins.

It found those presenting with acute conditions were not treated within the clinically recommended timeframe of 30 minutes. Ninety per cent of such patients spent more than four hours longer waiting in emergency departments than other patients (11.5 hours compared with seven hours). Extreme wait times were a problem: for instance, in South Australia, where 90 per cent gave up and left within 16.5 hours.

It also found that while indigenous Australians make up about three per cent of the population, they comprise 11 per cent of presentations across Australia.

Mental health advocate Professor Patrick McGorry says it is particularly difficult for 12 to 25-year-olds to gain access to mental healthcare.

“There are so many young people out there, who do not get help,” he says. “The neglect of treatment for these young people does have real consequences.”

Getting mental treatment for the young and vulnerable is a key issue across the Tasman as well.

This year, New Zealand recorded its highest suicide rate since statistics began, with the highest numbers by age recorded in the 20 to 24-year-old bracket.

In fact, a report from UNICEF last year placed New Zealand as worst out of 41 OECD countries for youth suicide.

Dr Judkins says “We can, and must, do better”.

“These are problems that emergency doctors cannot solve alone; they reflect a sector under great stress and lack of a plan for system-wide development.”

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