There are times when artists don’t realise how much they have in common. In recent times, I have been contacted by Australian artists who have decided to share their personal stories of mental ill health. Those artists have spoken to me about their personal experiences in open forums and in confidence via private correspondence.
If you are interested in mental health issues in Australia, you may like to consider visiting the Alliance For Better Access website. The site represents “Australians Opposing Cuts to Psychological Services in the ‘Better Access to Mental Health Care’ initiative.”
Let me put this in very plain language. The Australian Government has attempted to hoodwink the public into thinking that changes to mental health policy in the May 2011 Budget were a positive step forward. That is utter rubbish, and there is a rising tide of discourse being expressed on various sites and in the media.
In short, from November 1, 2011, the amount of Medicare rebateable sessions with a psychologist will be savagely cut from 18 to 10 in acute circumstances in a calendar year. That is a massive cut, and it will have an impact on people’s lives. For those who are currrently in acute situations, it is causing an increased level of anxiety. That is not a healthy situation.
As a mental health advocate, and user of psychological services, it has been difficult to get the attention of the media concerning the savage cutbacks to the Better Access scheme due to Patrick McGorry gaining more than his fair share of attention. The toxic Carbon Tax issue has been a huge distraction as well, and I suppose it is no surprise given the lie that was told. The Gillard/Brown/Oakeshott/Windsor/Wilkie Government is doing a mighty fine job of causing an increasing divide amongst Australians.
McGorry is currently being accused of a conflict of interest, and journalists are now beginning to look very closely into this matter. A higher level of scrutiny is now taking place.
Cynics of McGorry’s early intervention model include many of his peers in Australia and abroad, mental health advocates, and consumers of mental health services.
Fortunately, I have now been asked by a journalist of The Age to provide my thoughts and personal experiences, however I have had to push the matter. Many other protestors are doing so, too, and in increasing numbers. As a consumer of psychological services, my observation is that there is a reluctance for the media to canvas the opinion of consumers who use psychological services under the current Better Access scheme.
The Federal Government has allowed itself to be convinced of a model that is not accessible to all Australians. McGorry touts himself as someone who advocates for ALL Australians, however to date he has chosen not to denounce the savage cuts to funding the Better Access scheme. A scheme in which I am well versed due to using it since August 2009. McGorry has been challenged to clearly state whether he is for or against the cutbacks. McGorry calls those who question him to be “merchants of doubt” – and this includes highly regarded health professionals, experienced mental health advocates, and consumers of mental health services.
I know of artists who will be directly affected by the cutbacks to the Better Access scheme, and in most instances they are hesitant to speak up. I understand their fears. The government has chosen a soft target, and they know it. However, they seem to have underestimated the intelligence of people who utilise mental health services. People who come from all walks of life – even high-profile people. Artists, politicians, sportspeople, journalists … you get the gist.
For people with a diagnosed mental illness, they are mindful of keeping themselves well. Many undertake psychological therapy to learn new behavioural skills, which are designed to be implemented when needed. Some artists are walking a very fine line. The line of creativity can tip people over the edge to sheer brilliance and fame, or in some cases to suicide.
It is inspriring to see Australians rising up to the challenge and protest the savage cutbacks to the Better Access scheme. Some of these advocates are currently experiencing mental ill health. The Better Access scheme has provided affordable access to psychological services, and many of those have been formally diagnosed with acute situations. The Better Access scheme was a game-changer, as it gave people the the opportunity to seek affordable treatment and to better understand their condition and be able to experience a better quality of life.
If you believe you will be personally affected by changes to the Better Access scheme, I encourage you to speak up and add your comments to various contributions on the Alliance for Better Access site. You may also wish to relate your own story anonymously or by putting your name to it.
For those who have Facebook accounts, you may be interested in the ‘Better Access to Psychologists’ group, which currently has 718 members. The Facebook group is aligned to the main campaign site. Group members brainstorm ideas and then act upon them. The group consists of health professionals, consumers, advocates and carers.
If you are currently suicidal and need to speak to someone right away, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or by visiting their website http://www.lifeline.org.au