Liberal MP and psychologist Fiona Martin is calling for “critically significant structural reform” to Australia’s mental health system.
“When I say that, I mean every role within the mental health workforce needs to be reviewed and looked at to maximise the various services that are available to ensure that people who really need mental health services and expect to be able to get mental health services when they need it, have access to that,” Dr. Martin tells the Greek Herald.
The Member for Reid recently chaired a parliamentary mental health and suicide committee.
She tabled their final report, which makes 44 recommendations to improve the system, in Parliament last week.
“One of the most important things is that people can access mental health services when they need them. That is at the core of this report in its 44 recommendations,” she said.
“What we heard from people was that accessibility was the biggest concern across the nation; that people felt that they couldn’t access services that were needed.”
“I think that our mental health system was already fragmented and was already under stress before the pandemic but the pandemic really just put the next level of pressure on it and really had tipped it over.”
The pandemic has shown digital technology can be a legitimate tool to fix the system, allowing more people to access treatment online.
The final report highlights the need for well-designed digital systems to fill the gap.
“It’s not in place of treatment by a mental health professional, but it certainly helps in the early intervention and prevention of services,” she said.
Martin also recognises the need for culturally competent and trauma-informed workforces for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
“I know my yiayia and pappou came from Kastellorizo in Greece and when they came, my grandmother was traumatised by what she experienced (war) on the island during her time just before,” Martin said.
“So many people come to this country fleeing war, fleeing persecution, fleeing a whole lot of horrible, adverse situations in their countries.”
“It is important that we do provide culturally competent mental health services but also trauma-informed services as well.”
This week is the Australian Psychological Society’s 19th Psychology Week, with the theme ‘Working Minds’ focusing on promoting workplace wellbeing.
“People want to have autonomy and choice in the workplace,” Dr. Martin said.
“A healthy, high sense of agency is really what underlines happiness.”
Martin says poor mental health in the workplace is driving the Great Resignation — a ‘worker revolt’ that has seen a spike in people rejecting their 9 to 5 jobs.
Martin says there are signs Australia could go the same way.
She says the pandemic has “affected people in the sense that they’ve reassessed what they want out of life” and whether the stress they experience at work “is really worth it”.
“People really had an opportunity to stop and also reflect on what they want in their life [and] how they want to live,” she says.