The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists was disappointed to read The Roadmap for National Mental Health Reform 2012-2022 released by the Council of Australian Governments.
Older people are only mentioned ONCE in this 48 page document outlining mental health reform, despite being the fastest growing part of the population, with their own special needs related to mental illness’ says Dr Roderick McKay, Chair of the Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age.
‘Australians are now living longer than ever, and our population as a whole is ageing. However we are not appreciating the importance of preparing our society to meet the needs of these people, and we are not valuing their needs and contributions.
‘Despite stating a commitment to an ‘across lifespan approach’ older people are largely ignored in this document. Only one, out of 45 strategies, even specifically mentions them – and this is the only mention in the report.
‘There are no ‘preliminary performance indicators’ related to older people’s mental health, and the mental health of people aged 65 or older is explicitly excluded from other measurements of indicators of success. What message does this send except that the mental health of older Australians is not important?
‘Even worse is that in a welcome inclusion of whole-of-government representation on the proposed Working Group on Mental Health Reform; the portfolio of Aging is excluded from the Expert Reference Group. This would seem to cement the fear that it may be too late to prevent a decline in mental health care for older people.
The Faculty strongly recommends that:
- The Working Group on Mental Health Reform include representation from the portfolio of Aging
- The Roadmap Progress Reports include reporting of progress for older people on all possible indicators
- The promised successor to the Fourth National Mental Health Plan explicitly includes actions to improve all aspects of mental health and mental health care for older Australians
‘We should be a society that expects people to age wisely, recognises the ongoing contribution of older people and is quick to provide support when it is required’ said Dr McKay.