Just started reading the government’s response to the Senate’s report “The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia.”
Apparently, there is millions of dollars of funding since 2000 for national programs and frameworks. I find it exceedingly strange that as a sufferer of a mental illness and someone who has previously attempted suicide (I think that puts me in a couple of ‘risk’ categories) that very little of that funding benefits me, or that I haven’t been aware of any of these so called intiatives. I still see a private psychologist and psychiatrist, and yes, some of it is covered by Medicare but when I reach my ‘allocated’ number of visits a year (god forbid that I might need more care than what the government deems appropriate), its out of my pocket at $120 and $190 a session. The waiting to be a part of a public health program is long and in the meantime, what are you supposed to do? My recent hiccup meant I was back seeing my psychologist once a week. Could you magically get an appointment with a publicly funded psychologist that fast when you may have been on a waiting list for 6 months for your first appointment?
My follow up from my first hospital admission included a phone call from the ‘outreach’ team. They asked me if I had my own psychiatrist and when I replied that I did, it was suggested that as I was already being treated that they wouldn’t need to call again. Thanks, government funding!
If I wanted to go into an in-patient treatment program I would need to go into the private system. My health fund would only pay half of my costs. And that other couple of thousand dollars? Yeah, my pocket. Public treatment facilities are seen as ‘crisis’ centres. The ones I have been in offered little in the way of rehabilitation, little in the way of actual support for my mental health. The focus was on my physical health – would I harm myself? have I taken my medication? have I eaten? Yes, in crisis situations the basics are essential but over the longer term we move beyond that.
I really hope that this increase in federal funding makes some difference. I know that I am in somewhat of a privileged position – I have family who take care of me. I have a loving partner who knows the signs and does everything to help avert them escalating. I have the money to afford my own specialists. I get my medication through the regional hospital at a significantly reduced amount (oh, yeah, did I forget to mention my medication is NOT on the PBS for bipolar? It will be $150 a MONTH for one and $90 a MONTH for the other when I move from here). I have a job, an income and an understanding of my condition.
I’m articulate, intelligent and not the stereotypical mental health patient. What happens to the people who aren’t as lucky as me? How many of them would be saying that they don’t see the support the government is saying is out there, let alone me saying that with the resources that I do have?
I’ll read some more of this report and see what the bureaucrats have to says about such a personal and harrowing experience that I hope doesn’t touch their lives. I might have more to say later.