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In The News

Early intervention plan for mentally ill
22nd July 2005
By Michelle Grattan
Publication: The Age
© The Age. Reproduced by Permission

An estimated one in five people aged 14 to 24 has a mental health problem but is falling through the cracks of a system that is not geared to help them.

One of the main tasks of a planned youth mental health foundation will be to encourage early intervention and treatment.

To be set up by the Federal Government, it will supply information to treatment providers and community organisations that might spot people in difficulty. It will draw together health and other professionals to deliver mental health services.

This year's budget announced $69 million for youth mental health. Christopher Pyne, parliamentary secretary for health, yesterday unveiled details on how the money will be used.

The Government will invite tenders for framing "one of the most ambitious and important projects in the mental health sector since the development of (the national depression initiative) beyondblue," Mr Pyne said.

He said it was vital to "raise the mental health literacy" of young people. "Beginning to teach young people the language of mental health is the key to breaking down the extra stigma attached to suffering from a disorder at an early age," he said.

The biggest obstacle to helping them was that they did not seek treatment when something was wrong. The foundation will seek views from young people on how to encourage this.

Mr Pyne said mental health problems in older people were often picked up when they went to doctors with other illnesses. But young people did not see GPs as often.

"If you don't address mental health issues when a person is young, it becomes a matter of managing them for the rest of that person's life," he said.

"If you address them when they are young, you can mostly nip them in the bud and give people the chance of a normal life. Early intervention is the key to success in mental health."

Professor Ian Hickie, clinical adviser to beyondblue and director of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute, said reaching young people was vital.

He said they often recognised they had problems "but they are sceptical about the health services on offer".

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