Reappointed to the job he held before the election, Greg Hunt has nominated mental health as a central priority and set an ambitious goal of reducing the youth suicide rate to zero. The health minister’s commitment is longstanding and partly personal, informed by his mother’s bipolar disorder and the suicide of a close friend’s brother.
But his success will depend on a willingness to challenge the way mental healthcare is funded and delivered. Australia’s provider-centred, episodic model of healthcare needs to be abandoned in favour of a coordinated, consumer-focused system that works across jurisdictional and sector boundaries and prioritises patients with the greatest need.
To understand why this must happen, the minister need only look at Australia’s mental health statistics over the past ten years. With an unprecedented, decade-long investment by both sides of politics, the mental health sector should be thriving. Spending by governments in all jurisdictions has grown steadily and is expected to hit a record $9.8 billion next financial year.
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