In July this year, The Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT) released a report which revealed that the majority of Tasmanians struggle to access affordable mental health support. With the cost-of-living crisis, it isn’t surprising that most of us cannot afford to access mental health support on top of other expenses. What’s worse, as a domino effect, the cost-of-living crisis would appear to be contributing to those already struggling.
The report is part of a two-part survey of MHCT’s Access and Affordability project. The report is informed by a series of community consultations held earlier in 2023, and a survey of over four hundred people who access mental health services across Tasmania. Carers, family members and friends of the participants were also able to comment.
Connie Digolis, CEO of MHCT, states the outstanding number of participants who shared their experiences by taking part in the survey is a clear demonstration that Tasmanians are eager to create a mental health system which gives the public access to the support desperately needed.
“One of the biggest issues is that people have good awareness of what depression can look like, but they don’t have enough education on what depression looks like on them.” Connie Digolis, CEO of Mental Health Council of Tasmania.
“I don’t think there are enough affordable mental health services in terms of private sectors. Accessing mental health outside of government funded services is getting more expensive to access.”
“We’ve fallen below the national average for psychologists and psychiatrists here in Tassie. However, this a global shortage of mental health professionals and there really isn’t a short-term fix.” – Connie Digolis, CEO of Mental Health Council Tasmania (MHCT).
Ms. Digolis explains that one of the best prevention measures to be implemented would be better interim support services whilst people are waiting for mental health service professionals. Interim support refers to those services provided to individuals who are placed on a waiting list. Such interim support may be having a 24/7 telephone mental health service available.
“The biggest challenge for us is that everyone is seeking the same service. Any wait time to see a professional is sufficient but unfortunately, is not possible to avoid. What we need to be putting in place is better interim support for those people who are waiting.” she explains.
The report by MHCT highlights concerning trends. Over ninety percent of survey participants faced cost and availability barriers to accessing mental health services. Sixty percent stated they had delayed accessing support due to cost in the last twelve months.
Ms. Digolis explains that she believes it is more important to invest in preventative measures concerning the health of the public, rather than injecting funds on top of funds into curative healthcare. This means it makes more sense to stop individuals from being put into hospital beds in the first place. It makes more sense to prevent disease, rather cure it, and this all comes down to education.
“Finding qualified people to fill the professions is the difficulty. I’m hopeful for the future of mental health. I’m big on prevention as I’m from a public health background.” Ms. Digolis explains.
Taking care of one’s mental health comes back to the basics. Making sure we get regular exercise, good/balanced nutrition, making 7-9 hours of sleep a priority, having hobbies we enjoy, socialising enough, keeping our brains active, setting goals for ourselves, and practicing gratitude/keeping a positive mindset.
Although, Ms. Digolis explains that she believes the public are not educated enough on how to look after their own mental health.
“I don’t think enough funding goes into educating the public about prevention, from either the State or Federal Government,” she says.
“We cannot keep throwing money at the same things and expecting a different outcome. We need to assure that people keep reaching out for help and for support.”
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with mental health, please phone lifeline on 1800 98 44 34, or 13 11 14. There is always hope and you are not alone.