• Susan Murray

Hanging out in emergency is no place for people experiencing psyche-ache



Having immersed myself over the last six years in suicide prevention, and to a degree mental health, I might be considered a bit of a “Johnny-come-lately” to this area, but it doesn’t make me any less concerned about how we can and should be improving services. Last week the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) released the report on Mental Health Services in Australia. It is full of stats and facts which can be used to guide decisions around programs, services and resourcing.

There are many who have been advocating for years to find better options for supporting those who are in crisis. Skimming the data in this report gives every good reason as to why we must move on this now.

In 2106-17 there were 276,954 people who arrived at emergency departments across Australia for mental ill-health conditions. A staggering 6 out of every 10 were not admitted to hospital ….that’s almost 158,000 who did not get admitted to the hospital they attended.


What this says to me is ……. if we provided alternative quality care to de-escalate the immediate crisis and then supported the person to get the right ongoing care we could make a real difference:......

  • To each of the 158,000 individuals

  • To the emergency department nurses and doctors who we all know are stretched to the hilt

  • To the distressed family members and carers

  • To the administrators who are constantly being told to cut costs

By transforming services to non-hospitalised professional care in a living-room style environment it has been demonstrated to focus the individual on recovery and to save health systems up to 45% of their current costs.


I visited one such centre on a recent study tour in the US. It takes a lot to set up and get the best results. But, the results speak for themselves – and are well worth the effort.


The Commonwealth Government has allocated $1.45 billion to the Primary Health Networks over the next three years. Surely the opportunity to transform the mental health services is there. Let’s grab it and run with some trials in urban, regional and rural areas.


I am happy to help. Let’s get things moving.


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