Australia’s mental health services will receive a $52m boost in an attempt to cut waiting times for desperate teenagers struggling with anxiety or depression.
The government has announced extra funding for the national youth mental health foundation Headspace, aimed at allowing it to employ more staff and provide 14,000 extra services at its 107 centres across the country.
A chunk of the money – $12.8m – will be allocated to offering online support to youngsters in rural and remote areas.
“It takes a lot of courage if you’re a young person and you’re struggling with things and you’re thinking about the darkest of thoughts … to reach out for help,” Scott Morrison told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.
About one in four young Australians experience mental illnesses each year.
“We want young people to know they are not alone on their journey, and that we’re backing quality frontline support,” the prime minister said.
Earlier this month Morrison announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into the economic impact of mental illness.
The government was warned before the inquiry was set up that a lack of federal funding in mental health was a barrier to progress and suicide prevention, the Australian reports.
National data released last month showed 3,128 Australians took their lives in 2017 – 262 more deaths than the previous year.
Headspace has been struggling to keep up with demand for its services as more and more young people reach out for assistance.
Its founder, the 2010 Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry, said the funding boost was “another brick in the wall”.
“Mental health is the sleeping giant … in the health system,” he told reporters. “Mental health across the whole of the health system is the one area where, if you spend money, you will get a return on investment. You won’t see that in cancer, you won’t see that in heart disease, but you will see it in mental health.”
The extra dollars are on top of the $95.7m the government already spends on the centres each year.
The Headspace concept is being adopted in other countries, including Israel.
• Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636