The media reporting of the last 12 months related to Emergency Departments being overwhelmed by people with mental illness do not match the facts. As the Chief Psychiatrist says, the number of presentations from people with mental illness has increased by less than 2% over the last year.
And yet we see the media promoting inflammatory statements linking 'overcrowding, the mentally ill and drunks' with a '50% increase in violent crime in the state's hospitals'.
'At no time is violence towards emergency workers is unacceptable and that there is an urgent need to do more to reduce the incidence,' said Geoff Harris, Executive Director of the MHCSA.
'It is unfortunate, however, that the debate has generated undue emphasis on linking people with mental illness with violent incidents and drunkenness and using this to argue for more emergency or acute mental health beds. Not only does this unfairly stigmatise people with mental illness it also goes against 25 years of national mental health policy,' Mr Harris continued.
'The argument that we need to put more resources into more mental health emergency or acute beds in SA is not supported by good policy and evidence. Minister Snelling commissioned a review by Ernst and Young last year to investigate whether we should be putting more resources into emergency settings. The Review categorically stated that we should not be putting more resources into emergency settings and in fact stated that we should be transferring and investing more resources to community settings to help people with mental illness to stay out of crisis and reduce the flow to emergency settings.'
'It is about time we thought about what services and models work best for people with mental illness and their families. When I hear people talk about their experience with emergency services the key message seems to be that they want help and support in the period leading up to the crisis. There is strong evidence for models that are effective in supporting people to avoid crises.'
'It is popular to talk about investing in more beds in hospitals but surely in these times where money in health is tighter than ever, South Australians would prefer to see their Government increasing investment in services that effectively support people with mental illness to stay out of hospital.'
'The SA Government investment in mental health through 'Stepping Up' over recent years has made a positive impact. It hasn't fixed everything and nobody expected it would. We look forward to the soon to be established SA Mental Health Commission assisting us to avoid knee jerk reactions and develop the next 5 year plan to invest in services and models that will improve our mental health system and the quality of life for the people who need it.'
For further information: Contact Geoff Harris, Executive Director, MHCSA: Mobile: 0401 099 555