POLITICS

How The Budget Tackles Suicide And Rural Isolation

$115 million in new mental health programs.

09/05/2017 7:45 PM AEST | Updated 09/05/2017 9:17 PM AEST

The government has announced a few big-ticket items recently, including action on suicide. On Tuesday we got a budget announcing $170 million for mental health services, several of which have been previously announced, but all of which would be warmly welcomed.

Included in the budget is funding for rural telehealth services, research and suicide prevention, as well as a support program specifically for Defence Force members, veterans and families.

The biggest chunk of that pie is an $80 million commitment over four years for people who had been at risk of losing their mental health support services during the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Treasurer Scott Morrison said people with mental illnesses including "severe depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia and post-natal depression" would be covered under this scheme, for those requiring psychosocial services.

The budget papers, however, note that this federal funding "is contingent on a matching commitment from the states and territories". The federal and state governments are currently debating how to carve up responsibility and payment for the NDIS, so this condition may be a bit of a sticking point.

Elsewhere in the mental health sector, there's a previously announced $9 million over four years for telehealth services in regional, rural and remote communities. First announced last month, the commitment will help people access psychological support over the phone or internet if they are unable to attend a facility in person. There's also $15 million over two years for research into mental health, including youth mental health, the Black Dog and Thompson Institutes.

Helen Christensen, Director and Chief Scientist at the Black Dog Institute, welcomed $5 million in funding for programs to prevent mental illnesses.

"We think it's fantastic and overwhelming," she told HuffPost Australia.

"It will be directed into programs to prevent anxiety and depression in young people and workplaces. It's an extraordinary opportunity."

Another $11 million over three years will target suicide as "high risk" locations. There's $9 million for state and territory governments to build prevention installations such as fences, barriers and lighting at such notorious spots, and $2 million for Lifeline to continue suicide prevention services.

Elsewhere, there's $50 million for mental health prevention and support for ADF members and families. It includes expanded access to counselling, and pilot programs to tackle suicide prevention.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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