Unless you’ve been living under a media-proof rock, you’ll know that the LNP won the recent federal election and Tony Abbott is the new prime minister of Australia.
So what does the election result mean for Australians with mental illness – in particular, those with eating disorders?
In August the Coalition released its Policy for Efficient Mental Health Research and Services.
Key points include:
- A pledge of $18 million over four years to establish Australia’s first National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health
- Investment in new research to explore how better mental health can lift Australia’s economic productivity
- Tasking the National Mental Health Commission to assess the effectiveness of existing mental health programmes
An excerpt from the policy paper summarises the Coalition’s goal:
“We believe a proper evaluation of mental health programmes is necessary to ensure that the delivery of services gets to those most in need and that funding is provided to those programmes that have proven to be most effective on the frontline.”
This pledge is particularly relevant to Australians struggling with eating disorders.
Despite the prevalence and debilitating impact of conditions like anorexia and bulimia, current treatment services are woefully inadequate.
For instance, there are only 15 dedicated eating disorder beds in all of Queensland.
Five of these are public beds at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital. The other ten are private beds at Brisbane’s New Farm Clinic, a specialised psychiatric hospital.
Stacey Pike, 26, is a former inpatient at New Farm Clinic.
I spoke to Stacey about the “hell” of living with an eating disorder, a struggle compounded by difficulties in accessing effective, compassionate treatment.
The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) has released some concerning statistics:
- Anorexia and bulimia affect 2-4% of the Australian population
- The risk of premature death for women with anorexia is 6-12 times higher than the general population
- Eating disorders represent the second leading cause of mental disorder disability for young women
Hopefully, the Abbott government will deliver on its promise to review and overhaul the country’s mental health care system.
Action in this area would improve recovery prospects for people with eating disorders, and help put these devastating mental illnesses on the map.
If you’re keen to find out more, this segment from ABC’s 7:30 program (aired in late 2012) explores the issue further.
You can read one of my previous posts on eating disorders here.