Lack of mental health funding hampers solution

SUBSTANCE abuse, homelessness, unemployment and social isolation are behind the need for more mental health funding.

One of Mackay's top health experts said fixing problems at a grassroots level would save money in the long run.

Mental Illness Fellowship North Queensland chief Jeremy Audus's call for more government mental health funding has been echoed across regional Queensland.

Mr Audus said the city's fly-in, fly-out population also needed specific support.

It costs about $500,000 a year for someone to stay in a hospital mental health bed but $7000 to $10,000 a year to help people manage psychological problems at home.

Mr Audus said the public health system burden could be reduced if more community support was available.

MIFNQ helps hundreds of Mackay residents each week.

Mr Audus said mental health care and support needed to be treated like other major illnesses.

"It's an indicator that there's something wrong in our community in the 21st century where, in Australia and communities like Mackay, government funding for mental health issues is only 50% of the average of OECD countries. That's a very damning statistic," he said.

Mental Health Review Tribunal president Barry Thomas backed the call for more funding.

"One and a half times as many people suicide every year as are killed in car accidents and another 60-odd thousand attempt suicide," Mr Thomas said.

"If you had an illness that killed that many people you'd have a massive injection of funds," he said.

A spokesman for State Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the government had invested $130.35 million in 16 capital works projects, providing 259 new or upgraded beds for acute and extended stay treatment.

"Combined with Commonwealth capital funding for an additional 99 beds, we will deliver nine new community care units across the state with completion expected by mid-2015," he said.

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