Supporting the carers of people suffering from a mental illness is paramount, national advocacy groups say, and should be considered by the Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
Carers Australia and the National Carer Network have together issued a plea to government not to overlook their needs as part of a federal review into mental health and suicide prevention.
Kelly Gourlay, on behalf of Carers Australia — the peak body for Australia’s 2.6 million unpaid carers — welcomed the release of a select committee interim report this month but urged the group to include carers’ needs in their final review.
“Carers have among the lowest levels of wellbeing of any group in Australia, even before the impact of COVID-19 added another level of complexity,” Ms Gourlay said.
“Carers of individuals with a mental illness often do not have the same visibility as carers of people in other circumstances, and this can result in additional obstacles to accessing recognition and support,” she added.
The advocacy group said carers’ needs should also be considered against key themes of the interim report, which the select committee earmarked for further examination. These themes include workforce considerations, coordination and funding of services, accessibility and affordability, and early intervention.
Gourlay noted that it was important to understand the role carers play in contributing to the recovery of individuals with mental illness, especially where the well-being of people with mental illness and their families and carers were interdependent.
“Carers need support for their own mental health, and consumers of mental health services may also have care responsibilities. All consumers of health and social services need to be asked about their care responsibilities and how this may impact on their mental health,” she said.
The group urged the committee to take on board its submission to the inquiry in March this year. It echoed the views of Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention David Coleman that a whole-of-government approach was needed to address the final advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser.
On Monday Mr Coleman addressed a suicide prevention symposium to declare that the government was committed to wide-ranging reform of the mental health sector.
“We applaud the advice which calls for a refocused approach that does not wait for people to seek help, but rather strengthen and build on currently available supports to expand reach to where people interact,” Ms Gourlay said.
“We stand ready to engage with the committee as the peak body for unpaid carers during the next steps of this important process, and will continue to highlight the invaluable role carers make in Australia to the people they care for and the wider community.”
The Mandarin previously reported on a call by the select committee for the final advice of the National Suicide Prevention Advisor — that document was published by the government on Monday.