Small steps for progress on older persons’ mental health
The ACT Government’s long-anticipated strategy for older persons’ mental health and wellbeing has a lot of promise but lacks significant commitment to meaningful change.
The ACT Government today publicly launched the Re-envisioning Older Persons Mental Health and Wellbeing in the ACT Strategy 2022-2026.
“The Mental Health Community Coalition ACT commends the ACT Government on recognising the gaps in our current system and developing a strategy focused specifically on the mental health of older persons,” said Ms Corinne Dobson, Acting CEO of the Mental Health Community Coalition (MHCC) ACT.
“The mental health and wellbeing of older people has long been neglected by governments, and this strategy is an essential first step toward improving the mental health of senior Canberrans.
“However, it is a smaller step than we had hoped. The strategy provides a vision for improved mental health in our older citizens but lacks the necessary substance and actions to make a meaningful difference.”
Research has demonstrated that mental health services for older persons in the ACT are significantly under-resourced and markedly less developed than for other age groups.
The recent ACT Government Budget, released earlier this month, provided no additional funding for mental health and wellbeing programs or services for older Canberrans.
“There are considerable gaps in the programs, supports and services available for older Canberrans, with the lack of community-managed mental health services in the ACT being particularly pronounced,” Ms Dobson said.
“We were pleased to see a focus on the social determinants of mental health and commend the holistic view expressed by the Minister for Mental Health when tabling the strategy.”
However, although there is a wealth of existing research on the impacts and drivers of issues like homelessness and family violence, the strategy commits to re-exploring them instead of implementing policies and programs to address these pernicious issues.
“Even the elements of the strategy that commit to a process for designing programs and services for older persons’ mental health are not due to start for years,” Ms Dobson said.
“On a positive note, we were pleased to see a focus on engaging carers in mental health programs and service development, as well as identifying opportunities for developing their advocacy skills. Carers are integral to the mental health sector and deserve to have their dedication acknowledged and rewarded.
“We look forward to working with the ACT Government to address the service gaps and to ensure the mental health needs of older people in the ACT are addressed.”
Media contact: Angel Hellyer, Communications and Events Manager, 0493 388 756 | firstname.lastname@example.org
MHCC ACT is the peak body for community-managed mental health services in the ACT. Find out more about MHCC ACT at www.mhccact.org.au.