A new community focussed support initiative called Finding North has been launched by the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia (MIFA) to address the alarming lack of support for Australians living with severe and complex mental health conditions.
The latest figures indicate 154,000 Australians living with severe and complex mental health conditions are doing so with no support from either the NDIS or Federal and State/Territory psychosocial programs.
Due to population size, NSW alone ranks the highest with 53,000 people not being supported and linking it back home, the Tamworth region has 400-500 people not being supported.
When asked to define what constitutes as a severe or complex mental health condition, MIFA CEO Tony Stevenson said they include conditions primarily caused through an imbalance in the brain.
“Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for example, are caused through an imbalance in the brain during its development around late adolescence, or early adulthood,” Mr Stevenson said.
Many other complexities arise from these conditions as well.
Often people’s relationships breakdown with family and friends, they are unable to complete education, or hold down a job, so people can experience decades of poverty, long periods in hospital, or are homeless.
Stigma has a big role to play in this lack of support because society doesn’t see severe mental illness such as schizophrenia in the same way that society might think about other medical conditions.
“There’s no way that as a society, we would be willing to see 150,000 people with cancer not getting support they need. We don’t see it in the same way,” said Mr Stevenson.
154,000 Australians are living with no support from NDIAS and Government programs, leaving them vulnerable to poverty, lack of education, and homelessness.
So, what are the Governments doing?
In 2021, the Productivity Commission released a report, outlining very clearly there is this group of 154,000 people missing out on support.
Although the Governments agreed with that broad analysis, they wanted to do a further analysis to determine the demand State-by-State, which is expected to be completed by March 2024.
The MIFA states this is too long and alternatively would like to see the Governments select regions across Australia that they can be confident with the numbers of people needing support and begin the roll-out of more psychosocial support programs in those communities.
“If people do not receive the psychosocial support they need early in illness, alarmingly there is an increased likelihood of prolonged distress and lifelong disability,” said Mr Stevenson.
“This then leads to greater long-term costs to the health system, increased dependence on social services, increased risk of unemployment, homelessness and increased interactions with police, justice, and corrections.
“Conversely, when support is provided early and consistently, there is a much greater likelihood that people will experience mental health recovery, costs will be reduced over time and there is a reduced risk of enduring illness and disability.
“With the right support, people with serious and complex mental illness can recover and live meaningful lives.”
The MIFA’s Finding North initiative is a service filling this gap aimed to help people right across Australia to access community support with their mental health.
“Finding North is all about connecting with the North Star, which is quite unique to all of us,” explained Mr Stevenson.
“Its about understanding where we are in our lives, where we want to go, and how to get there.
“So, for people living with mental health conditions, the best way to understand that is to hear from other people who have taken that path to recovery.”
The MIFA invites people living with mental health conditions, including those with severe and complex ones, to log onto the service and explore what is available and what people with lived experience have to offer.
To log on or to find out more about Finding North, visit https://findingnorthnetwork.com.au/