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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 05 January 2019
THE YEAR AHEAD: MENTAL HEALTH & WELFARE 8 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 5 JANUARY 2019 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM The road to equality and mental health MARIA KATSONIS 2019 will shine a spotlight on mental health at both the state and national level. Last year the Australian Bureau of Statistics released new data which showed suicide rates are at a 10-year high with 3,128 lives lost in 2017. At the same time, state and federal governments are spending around $9 billion a year on mental health services. It is questionable whether this funding is producing the best outcomes with more lives being lost now than a decade ago. Shortly after the release of the suicide data, the federal government announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into the role of mental health in the Australian economy. In what promises to be a significant inquiry, the Commission will look at how governments, employers, professional and community groups can contribute to improving mental health for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. In Victoria, 2019 will see the commencement of the Royal Commission into Mental Health, a major election commitment of the Andrews government. The Royal Commission will be tasked with recommending how best to support Victorians with mental illness. Establishment of the Royal Commission is underway with public feedback now being sought on potential terms of reference. While the imperative for accessible mental services which improve the lives of people is unambiguous, the pathway to reform is complex. Since 2006, there have been some 32 reviews of mental health with varied take-up of recommendations by government. Undoubtedly the same ex- perts, community groups, consumers and carers who contributed to the 32 reviews will also contribute to the Productivity Commission Inquiry and the Royal Commission. The challenge for the Production Commission and Royal Commission is not just about recommending a comprehensive pathway for reform. The challenge is whether government will listen and provide the requisite funding and resourcing to deliver a compassionate mental health system which puts people at the centre. Maria Katsonis Grass roots organisations like the Greek and Gay Network are working to increase acceptance and understanding but change is slow. LGBTQI COMMUNITY The historic achievement of marriage equality was a significant milestone for the LGBTQI community. Yes it was cause for jubilant celebration but LGBTQI discrimination didn't end with the passage of legislation that gave same-sex couples the right to marry. LGBTQI people still work in homophobic and transphobic workplaces where it's unsafe to come out and queer students are still bullied at school because of their gender or sexuality. There's more that needs to be done. This includes ending gay conversion therapy; making it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates; and addressing the higher risk of depression and anxiety, substance abuse and suicidality that LGBTQI people face. This is PHOTO: TECHNICAVITA.ORG a direct result of the stigma, prejudice and abuse they experience simply because they are LGBTQI. In a positive move, the Equality Campaign which fought for the yes vote in marriage equality is relaunching as Equality Australia. It will maintain the momentum of reform and continue to advocate for equality in LGBTQI rights. A major issue looming on the horizon is religious freedom and whether religious schools can lawfully discriminate against LGBT students and staff. As the only state with a Minister for Equality, Victoria continues its progressive approach to LGBTQI equality. Planned initiatives include an additional $2.5 million to expand LGBTQI family counselling services; modernising Victorian legislation that unfairly discriminates against LGBTQI people; and $3 million towards homelessness for LGBTQI Victorians as they are twice as likely to become homeless and often at a younger age. Regrettably the same progressive attitudes on LGBTQI issues are not always found in the Greek Australian community and the marriage equality debate exposed the deep divide. Grass roots organisations like the Greek and Gay Network are working to increase acceptance and understanding but change is slow. We need stronger community leadership and voices to champion inclusion for LGBTQI Greek Australians and take a stand against prejudice and discrimination. *Maria Katsonis is a Public Policy Fellow at the University of Melbourne and the author of 'The Good Greek Girl'. Diverse needs and challenges of the Greek community TINA DOUVOSSTATHOPOULOS For almost five decades PRONIA has been responding to the needs of Greek migrants with services expanding beyond the firstgeneration Greek migrants, having relevance to the second and subsequent generations. A rapidly ageing Greek population and longer life expectancy of older people have increased pressure on community service organisations to meet changing needs and expectations of the community. Recognising the importance and impact of Greek migration and cultural factors on the ageing experience a large part of our work relates to servicing the ageing Greek community and their families. The Greek elderly, like most older people, prefer to age at home, living independently in the community with new consumer directed care policy providing choice and flexibility for home care supports. Aside from health issues, chronic disease such as diabetes and cancer, there is growing concerns of cognitive health, like dementia, and increased health risks of loneliness and isolation. The ongoing challenge of the lack of English language skills and low literacy levels of older Greek people restricts their ac- comes and their capacity to independently participate in society. We continue to debate gaps in service provision to the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and advocate for the implementation of more culturally responsive frameworks to improve culturally appropriate care to our community and uptake of preventative programs to improve quality of life. Tina Douvos-Stathopoulos. cess to information and services and increases reli- ance on others, essentially compromising service out- The increased responsibility in caring for ageing parents and the impacts of inter-generational issues, family breakdown and social issues such as substance abuse and family violence has seen an in- crease in service request by second and subsequent generations. The role of carer, often assumed by an adult child, has become increasingly stressful due to high care needs of parents and the need to balance work and family responsibilities, referred as the 'sandwich generation'. Further, end of life care and palliative care are difficult matters facing families. Not surprising is the gaps in service knowledge and access to information indicating need for education campaigns and targeted support services to build community capacity. *Tina Douvos-Stathopoulos is the CEO of PRONIA.
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