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http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/12/2273155.htm

Govt pledges $50m to mental health

The Federal Government has announced a $50 million funding boost for mental health services.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says $20 million will go to suicide prevention programs.

Ms Roxon has also unveiled the make-up of a new national advisory group on mental health, to be led by former head of the Mental Health Council, John Mendoza.

Ms Roxon says the new council fulfils an election commitment.

“The advisory council is a mechanism to provide the Government with independent, balanced and confidential advice from a wide range of experts to inform national mental health reform efforts, and provide continuing impetus for reform,” she said.


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http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/04/2264613.htm

Youth suicide dropping, but self harm on the rise

A young woman rests her head in her hands in a depressed pose

Experts say depression and anxiety can manifest themselves in self harm. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

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Australia has managed to reduce the number of teenage suicides but the latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare show there is a new problem that needs to be tackled, self harm.

In the past decade there has been an alarming rise in the number of young people who intentionally hurt themselves, with more than 7,000 taken to hospital in one year.

Youth suicide has long been recognised as a real and significant issue in Australian society.

But Professor George Patton from the Centre for Adolescent Health says more commonly, deep emotional pain can manifest itself as self harm.

“The act is not necessarily about killing yourself and for most young people self harm is not about killing yourself, it’s a way of dealing with emotions that you’re finding difficult,” he said.

“They may be emotions of feeling anxious, feeling angry, feeling unhappy, a mixture of all of the above.”

The latest figures from the Institute of Health and Welfare, released this morning, reveal the rate of self harm is rising dramatically.

In the decade from 1996 to 2006, the rate of hospitalisations from self-harm went up by 43 per cent among young people.

For young women, the increase was even higher at 51 per cent.

The institute’s Deanna Eldridge says that equates to 7,300 young people in the most recent statistical year.

“Overall it only accounts for about 2 per cent of all hospitalisations of young people, but in terms of injury it’s about the sixth leading cause of hospitalisation.

The Institute’s figures show about 80 per cent of the hospitalisations for self-harm were for deliberate poisoning.

Professor Patton says that is a reflection of the most serious cases but it is really only the tip of the iceberg and most cases of self-harm do not need immediate medical attention.

“The commonest type of self harm the young people report is deliberately cutting themselves,” he said.

“Self poisoning is the next most common and then things like deliberate risk taking, beating up on yourself or self battery – they’re less common again.”

Self harm is most common during puberty and reaches a peak at an average age of 15.

It is a problem all around the world and the rise of cases in Australia fits with similar trends in other Western countries.

Professor Patten says there is a growing feeling that the rise in self harm is actually a reflection of the growth of individualism and loss of connections.

“They are really important for young people as they’re growing up and so kids are growing up feeling that they actually need to deal with their problems themselves,” he said.

Youth depression groups, like Reach Out! have helped make progress in bringing down the suicide rate but spokesman Jonathan Nicholas thinks the figures show there is still a lot of work to do.

“We’ve made some good inroads into suicide but the journey is far from over and it says that we’ve actually got to do more in intervening early with young people and getting them to the supports they need and making sure that they are not reaching the point where they want to die,” he said.

Adapted from an AM report by youth affairs reporter Michael Turtle.

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/29/2229767.htm

AMA to release damning ‘ice’ report

AMA President Dr Rosanna Capolingua

Ice report out today: AMA president Rosanna Capolingua (AAP: Mark Graham)

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The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says it will lobby state and federal governments for new funding to overhaul the way the health system deals with methamphetamine users.

A paper to be released by the AMA today reveals that more than three quarters of methamphetamine users suffer from mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and aggression.

AMA president Rosanna Capolingua says drugs like speed and ice are putting a huge strain on the nation’s emergency departments, and she has called for increased funding for both the prevention and treatment of methamphetamine use.

“These people present with violence and aggression so that if they are brought into an emergency department they are very difficult to manage,” she said.

“They’re threatening to the staff in the hospital that’s trying to look after them and very threatening to other people in the hospital, other patients that are there.

“The AMA very much wants to deal with supporting and providing infrastructure and funding for services to treat those patients and people that are already methamphetamine dependant.

“At the same time we have to have community program awareness, prevention, so that we don’t have the continuing take-up of methamphetamine use.

“This is serious and it has an impact on the individual and those trying to manage or look after them.”

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/23/2225137.htm

RDH says ‘patient rage’ is increasing

Troublesome patients are being asked to sign behaviour contracts if they wish to stay at the Royal Darwin Hospital.

Some public hospitals in Victoria are asking aggressive patients to sign written agreements, in a bid to curb anti-social behaviour.

The Royal Darwin Hospital’s general manager Len Notaras says patient management agreements have existed at Darwin Hospital for several years.

But he says patient rage at the facility is on the rise and the agreements are now being enforced.

“We cannot expose our staff, our clinicians or the visitors or other patients to the risks and indeed the insult to their respect.

“What we are trying to put into place is a safe respectful environment that says ‘Look, we’re not actually going to tolerate the violence in those anti-social situations’.”

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/18/2220929.htm

Mental health report out of date: Robertson

Queensland’s Health Minister says a report on mental health services in Australia is out of date.

The National Mental Health Report says Queensland spends less on mental health than any other state or territory government.

The issue is being discussed at a meeting of the nation’s health ministers in Melbourne today.

Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson says the report is based on figures from 2004.

“That situation has improved significantly over the last couple of years with an additional $528 million now being invested in mental health,” he said.

“Our performance over the last couple of decades on mental health has not been particularly stellar, and we’ve faced up to that fact.”

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/15/2217878.htm

Troubled mental health ward

A new report into Launceston’s mental health ward claims bullying, mismanagement and misconduct are still rampant.

Upper House member Ivan Dean has prepared his own report on ward 1-e after being approached by people concerned about the facility.

Mr Dean spoke to patients, their relatives and former staff at ward 1E who wish to remain anonymous.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people who broke down and were in tears for the majority of time they were talking to me, and that really was an emotional position for me,” Mr Dean said.

He has criticised the government for failing to act on concerns first raised four years ago and found bullying, harassment and mismanagement are still occurring.

But the Health Minister Lara Giddings says they’ve come a long way.

“What I would hate to see is something that is bringing back past problems that we have dealt with and causing more problems today,” Ms Giddings said.

She has passed the report on to the head of Mental Health Services for comment.

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Marketing influences antidepressant prescriptions: study

Pills spill out of a bottle.

The research found drugs which are well branded and marketed are more commonly prescribed than similar alternatives. (File photo) (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

New research into marketing by pharmaceutical companies has found that doctors and psychiatrists are being influenced by the branding of antidepressant drugs.

Dr Steven Ward from Perth’s Murdoch University will publish research later this year which compares the chemical ingredients of antidepressants and the marketing of them to health professionals.

The research has found drugs which are well branded and marketed to health professionals are more commonly prescribed than similar, less marketed alternatives.

Dr Ward says GPs also rate drug company representatives as their second most important source of information on pharmaceuticals.

“We relied on looking at, was brand name that important or was it the actual drug, or the chemical differences in the drug that were the driving factor? We find that they’re equally important,” he said.

“That’s very surprising, regardless of medical training, I expected it to be less important, particularly for psychiatrists.”

He says the pharmaceutical industry spends $21,000 per Australian doctor each year marketing and branding drugs.

“With for example financial planners, there is a requirement to disclose any gifts, inducements etc,” he said.

“Here we have a group of people who are making important decisions and if there are any inducements and so on, there may be a role for some sort of transparency in that process.”

Australian Medical Association president, Rosanna Capolingua, has rejected the findings saying doctors prescribe the medication they believe will benefit the patient most.

“Often when a new drug is launched, information is distributed,” she said.

“You may see doctors using that new drug on a patient because it has new benefits.

“It may have better qualities than other medications and you’ll see that trend occur.”

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