Recently I found myself in conversation with someone who clearly had never had the misfortune of dealing with the public mental health system. The conversation had started about NDIS and the attempted introduction of independent assessments. It was at this point that the topic moved to access and people accessing the NDIS, people who this person believed were stealing resources from those who ‘really’ need it. They believe that those with a mental health condition should access the public mental health system, not steal resources from those who need the NDIS.
The ironic part of this conversation was that just minutes before they had been speaking about how the NDIS is funded and that the money will always be there while there are tax payers. I think this is more indicative of the national conversation around health care than this individuals feelings on people with a mental illness. Our government are experts at pitching us against each other.
There is always someone who is ‘stealing’ resources from someone else. They can’t fund schools because the health system is being a drain. They can’t fund health care because welfare recipients are draining the resources. They can’t fund welfare because the immigrants are taking the money. They can’t support asylum seekers because the education system is in crisis. And so on goes the cycle.
The reality is that health care doesn’t need to be treated like a pie. There doesn’t need to be an us or them mentality. Me receiving health care doesn’t need to mean that the next person misses out. However that is how the current model works, especially in public mental health care.
The criteria one needs to meet in order to be eligible for public mental health services can be incredibly limiting. Well of course it should be, I hear you say, if everyone used it there’d be nothing left for anyone else. And that there is the problem. It’s not that people are using the service. It’s the attitude to people using the system and how our governments doesn’t see funding those services as a priority.
Those on the frontline of these services are overworked and under appreciated. They don’t have the time or the resources to give the support that they feel their clients need and deserve. They can’t do more than crisis care and band aid fixes. Mental health care needs to be about giving people the support and resources to better care for themselves in the long term. Support that allows them to live a fulfilling life, not a life of survival. Just enough isn’t good enough for our most vulnerable.