Commonwealth inquiry offers opportunity for lasting solutions
Wesley Mission has welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s inquiry into mental health barriers to education, training and employment participation claiming it offers the opportunity for long-term and lasting solutions.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment inquiry will be wide ranging and consult across the education and employment sectors, including employers and employment providers.
Wesley Mission, a Parish Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia, provides a wide range of mental health and employment services in metropolitan, regional, and rural Australia and works closely with local employers as part of a whole of community approach to workforce participation.
“From our experience and research there is a strong link between mental health issues and the degree of workforce engagement and participation,” the CEO of Wesley Mission, the Rev. Dr Keith Garner said.
Mental health impacts on other issues such as financial stress, job preparation and preparedness, homelessness, substance abuse and family breakdown.
Dr Garner said it was essential that mental health services were fully integrated with employment and education services: where possible Wesley Mission has been co-locating mental health and employment services.
“For too long providers, both government and non-government, have worked in silos resulting in ad-hoc and piecemeal solutions,” he said. “This inquiry provides the opportunity for a new way of working with whole of life, long-term solutions.”
Dr Garner said an employment service provider was often the first point of contact for someone with a mental health issue.
“Employers, educators and employment providers need to be skilled in identifying mental health issues, reducing stigma and developing a knowledge base to refer people to appropriate services,” he said. “The earlier the intervention the greater probability of recovery or sustainable management of the problem.”
A Wesley Mission study last year revealed that a staggering 77 per cent of people have either suffered a mental health problem or know someone who has.
The survey of more than 2,000 people found that that 53 per cent of the community will personally experience a mental health problem during their lives while mental illness among one third of young people goes undiagnosed.
“The Wesley Mission survey result goes to the heart of our experience with those we help, suggesting that under-reporting, under-diagnosis and a lack of treatment is common,” Dr Garner said.
People on low incomes, particularly the unemployed, were 15 per cent less likely to seek help from a counsellor.
“The Wesley Report clearly shows that many sufferers, especially those under 25, do not seek early formal care, despite the fact that the sooner a sufferer acts, the more likely he or she is to recover, and recover quickly,” Dr Garner said.
“One of the reasons is the stigma, the uninformed community attitudes which make sufferers ashamed to admit the way they feel. We need people to feel free enough to access help and access it early.”
Wesley Mission is a large provider of mental health services. It runs a range of early intervention and community based programs. Wesley Mission operates Lifeline Sydney and Sutherland taking more than 20,000 crisis calls a year, while its LifeForce suicide prevention program has trained more than 15,000 Australians in suicide prevention and education.
Wesley Mission also runs programs and mental health services at Wesley Hospital Ashfield and Wesley Hospital Kogarah.