Australia apologies for instututional sexual abuse

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised on behalf of the nation for failing and abandoning the thousands of survivors of institutional child sex abuse.

Key points:

  • The apology was a recommendation of the royal commission
  • In its final report the commission estimated the number of child victims was in the tens of thousands
  • Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also delivered an apology

In an address to Federal Parliament, Mr Morrison said there was no promise that could be made and nothing that could be done to right the wrongs of the past.

But he said the nation was now confronting a “trauma” and an “abomination” that had been hiding in plain sight for too long.

“Today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice,” he said as hundreds of people watched on from Parliament’s public galleries and Great Hall.

“To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.

“To the whistleblowers who we did not listen to, sorry.

“To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands, children, who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry.

“To generations past and present, sorry.”

Mr Morrison acknowledged the “silenced voices” and “never-heard pleas of tortured souls” who were bewildered by “indifference to the unthinkable theft of their innocence”.

“I simply say, I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you,” he said.

Mr Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten both agreed to cancel Question Time in the House of Representatives on Monday out of respect for those affected by abuse.

Shorten quotes royal commission testimony

Mr Shorten opened his apology by quoting testimony from the royal commission.

“We were treated as slaves, beaten and abused, used for their perverted desires, no love or kindness, no safety or warmth, always hungry and always frightened,” he said.

Mr Shorten acknowledged Australia had “come too late” to the apology and that there were wrongs “that cannot be made right”.

“But know that today Australia says sorry. Australia says we believe you,” he said.

“And in years to come, people will learn of your lives. They will be appalled by the suffering. They will be shocked by the cruelty.”

Former prime minister Julia Gillard, who established the royal commission in 2013, was in the Chamber to witness the apology.

After the formalities, Ms Gillard received a standing ovation and rapturous applause in the Great Hall.

There were emotional scenes as the two leaders spoke and occasional heckling from the crowd.

Among the survivors watching the apology was 96-year-old Katie, who was abused at the Sisters of Saint Joseph orphanage at Gore Hill, on Sydney’s north shore.

As one of Australia’s oldest survivors of child sexual abuse, she said the apology seemed “very sincere”.

“It was beautiful, really lovely,” Katie said.

“I’m really pleased I came, and I feel that it’s answered a lot of questions for me.

“I’m able to put a lot in the past now that I wasn’t able to before, so it’s really helped me.”

Also watching was Manny Waks, who was sexually abused by a security guard at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne in the 1990s.

Mr Waks, who flew in from Israel especially for the occasion, said the apology should not be the end of the matter.

“They’re words and words are important,” he said.

“[However], what’s far more important is the implementation.

“The Government and institutions cannot for a moment think they’re absolved of their obligations.”

Much work still to be done: PM

Outside Parliament, victims and survivors tied ribbons around a memorial tree and were joined by Mr Morrison, who said the pain he felt in the room “grieved his soul to the core”.

“I just hope that what we’ve done here today provides some measure of relief, but there is much work to do,” he said.

 

The national apology was a recommendation from the royal commission, which held nearly 60 public hearings and 8,000 private sessions over five years.

In its final report, the commission estimated the number of child victims in the tens of thousands, saying their abusers were “not just a few rotten apples”.

“We will never know the true number,” it read.

“Whatever the number, it is a national tragedy, perpetrated over generations within many of our most trusted institutions.”

Mr Morrison announced that the Government would also set up a museum, to collect the stories of survivors, and fund a research centre to raise awareness about child abuse.

(c) ABC  News Australia

Advertisements

Careful where you get your sausage from.

Naked butcher photos sees Kalkarindji residents throw out beef and sausages from NT meatworks

Meat is being dumped from stores across the remote community of Kalkarindji, the Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation says, after a photo of a naked butcher preparing sausages was uploaded to social media.

Key points:

  • Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation ‘disgusted’ after photo of naked butcher surfaces online
  • Supermarkets, school in Kalkarindji asked to dispose of meat sourced from facility
  • NT Department of Primary Industry in contact with company following incident

The photo, purportedly taken at a local meat supplier, shows a butcher handling sausages dressed in only boots and an apron, leaving his bare buttocks exposed.

Kalkarindji Traditional Owner and Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation spokesperson Rob Roy said the butcher and meat supply facility were “easily identified” by the community.

“That to me is one idiot who is treating black people of this community, Kalkarindji, very wrong and not with a lot of respect,” he said.

“To me, that’s making me think back to Vincent Lingiari, maybe that’s why he walked off the station, because he wasn’t treated fair.

“They’re just treating us like dogs.”

Mr Roy said he had asked local supermarkets to dispose of fresh beef and sausages from the meatworks.

He said it was a health and safety risk, and the community should not “eat dirty meat off their sweat”.

“I went to the main mob, our local community store, told them to empty out the shelf,” he said.

“I said the snags, the beef, I want it all chucked away and empty the fridge until further notice.

“I rang the school, spoke to the principal … and told him to dispose all of [the meat], because we’ve got a really serious situation happening here.”

Butcher fired, meat recall issued

The butcher, who has been contacted for comment, removed the photo from Facebook on Friday afternoon.

In a statement, the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA), which runs a number of remote stores across the Northern Territory, including the Kalkarindji meatworks, said the man’s employment had been terminated “effective immediately”.

“ALPA has informed three stores which were supplied by Kalkaringi Meats to remove all products from their shelves immediately pending an investigation by the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries,” it said.

“ALPA has taken this matter very seriously and has communicated with the affected stores and has issued clear instructions to ensure any customer who returns Kalkaringi meat products that a full refund will be issued.

“ALPA does not envisage this will impact food security and we intend to secure alternative fresh meat supplies until the matter is resolved.

The Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Resources said it was aware of the photo and had been in contact with the company regarding the incident.

Mr Roy said the company would need to work hard to rebuild trust with the community — and needed to issue an apology.

“It’s disrespectful, it’s an utter disgrace … we don’t know how long this has been happening,” he said.

“They’re not going to hurt this community again by having an incompetent butcher or person in there processing this beef and sausages.”

The meatworks said it would not be commenting as the matter is under investigation and the appropriate authorities have been notified.

(ABC New Darwin Australia)

Vaginal mesh implant – national apology from Australian government.

Mesh implants: Government issues national apology over ‘agony and pain’ caused by device

Health Minister Greg Hunt has issued a national apology to the many women whose lives have been ruined by the debilitating effects of pelvic mesh implants.

Key points:

  • Health Minister issues national apology to mesh patients
  • Action follows patient horror stories
  • New register to be set up to track mesh devices

Speaking as he released details of the Government’s response to a Senate inquiry into vaginal mesh, Mr Hunt said he wanted to acknowledge the pain and suffering of those at the centre of the medical scandal.

“On behalf of the Australian Government, I say sorry to all of those women with the historic agony and pain that has come from mesh implantation which have led to horrific outcomes,” he said.

“My message to them is your voice has been heard, and not just heard but acted upon.”

The ABC has obtained details of the Government’s response to the inquiry, which is expected to be tabled today.

Mr Hunt said the Government would work with states and territories on setting up a voluntary national register of women who have had mesh devices and anything that went wrong.

“I would like to see it (the register) set up by the end of 2019, if not the middle of the year,” he said.

Patient groups had wanted it to be made compulsory for all health practitioners to report side-effects of any implantable device.

Mr Hunt said while his Government supported such a move, it was outside federal powers to do so.

“We will encourage the states and territories to adopt mandatory standards,” he said.

Do you know more about this story? Email Specialist.Team@abc.net.au

There’s been a mixed response from women and consumer health groups who continue to lobby for all mesh products to banned.

At the moment many items have been pulled from shelves and only select products can be used by qualified surgeons.

Mother of two Joanne Villani said she had witnessed some reforms by regulators, but many problems she experienced more than a decade ago still persisted.

“Women are still not being believed by their doctors,” she said.

“Doctors are still implanting mesh and telling women it’s new mesh and it is the same mesh.

“I would like mesh to be banned until it’s been shown to be safe. If it’s not shown to be safe, then it should never be used again.”

Senator Derryn Hinch pushed for the Senate inquiry, calling mesh “one of the biggest medical scandals” in Australian history.

Among the other actions the Federal Government will take are:

  • Permanent Medicare payment items for the removal and treatment of pelvic mesh
  • Asking states and territories to conduct an audit of pelvic mesh

Mr Hunt said he would raise the issues with his counterparts at the next health COAG meeting.

“I would be surprised if any state or territory resisted the steps that we have taken,” he said.

“Too many women have suffered too much for too long.”

‘I’ve friends who probably won’t make it’: patient

For Ms Villani it was not that pelvic mesh stopped her being able to have intercourse with her husband, it was the broader impact it had on their relationship.

“We actually split up for quite some time. It’s nothing my husband did or thought,” she said.

“It was very hard when he felt guilty and I felt guilty. It caused strain.”

The mother-of-two left the family home for some time because of the problems mesh caused in her relationship.

She has now returned to her partner because they “just want to be together”, but said their partnership would never be the same.

It is just one way Ms Villani said mesh has “totally altered my life” after her doctor suggested it to treat prolapse and incontinence following the birth of her son.

She recalled her surgeon seemed quite excited about the product at the time and believed he was on the “cutting edge” of new techniques.

“It didn’t quite work the way they expected,” she said.

“I went back to the surgeon on a number of occasions to discuss problems I was having and I was basically told it was in my head.”

Eleven years on, she said her situation had improved little.

“I have pain all the time,” she said.

“I’ll have to give up my job eventually. My financial future is also affected. I’ve been extremely depressed and anxious.”

Ms Villani said the worst part was that she was “not the only one”.

“Some women are expecting to die from their complications,” she said.

“I’ve friends who probably won’t make it.”

Patient advocates call for regulation of devices

And while Ms Villani welcomed the Government’s reforms to regulation and reporting, she said it did very little to help women who were continuing to struggle with debilitating side-effects from the product.

“I have friends who are talking about suicide. So we all need help,” she said.

“I would like to believe the Federal Government is serious about reform but what I see is a lot of this comes down to money.

“Money isn’t the issue, we are the issue.”

Patient advocates had been hoping for much tighter regulations of implantable devices, so that a scandal like pelvic mesh could not happen to other patients in the future.

Health Issues Centre chief Danny Vadasz said the Minister’s apology would provide much-needed validation to women who had long been told their problems were in their heads.

He welcomed the push for mandatory reporting, but said it relied on doctors listening to their patients.

“What we found in a lot of cases [was] women believed they had an adverse outcome but their practitioners didn’t,” Mr Vadasz said.

“You can only effectively mandate something if there’s an agreement on what constitutes an adverse result.”

He said the states and territories, to date, had not made an audit of past mesh cases a priority, but “hopefully with the Minister’s encouragement they will put this on the front burner”.

Mr Hunt said discussions were also underway to include implantable devices on the My Health record, if a patient chose.

But he said it would not be mandatory and the Government wanted to make sure that the My Health record system “was an entirely voluntary system”.

Mr Vadasz did not think the My Health record was an adequate avenue for a registry of devices because it had “sufficient problems of its own”.

“Complicating one problem by introducing the problems of another isn’t a way of coming up with an overall solution,” he said.

The Health Issues Centre was also hoping to see stricter credentialing around which surgeons were allowed to implant mesh.

“I haven’t heard anything yet that suggests there’s going to be tighter control of clinical trials that would enable a high degree of confidence in products that find their way to market,” Mr Vadasz said.

“I think people still need an explanation about why the various regulatory systems that are supposed to protect the public failed.”

(Source: ABC News Australia)

Australian strawberry industry on the edge as hunt for needles continues.

SYDNEY – Australia is warning culprits in a worsening fruit contamination crisis they could face 15-year jail terms. Police are investigating dozens of reports of sewing needles being found in containers of strawberries across the country. Many are thought to be copycat acts of sabotage.

‘Parasites’ and ‘cowards’ is what government ministers are calling those responsible for contaminating fruit across Australia.

StrawberryThe police are investigating more than 100 reports of shoppers finding needles concealed within strawberries and other fruits.

The perpetrators could face prison terms of up to 15-years – a penalty similar to crimes such as child pornography and financing terrorism.

‘Obviously we mean this to have the maximum deterrent affect possible and we do not resile from the fact that it is a very strong response and it has been a strong response delivered very swiftly this week. But it is precisely what is needed to draw a line under this conduct and stop it from having another week of damage done to our fruit growers and to our farmers,’ said Australia’s Attorney General Christian Porter.

Empty shelves, normally stocked with strawberry punnets, are seen at a Coles Supermarket in Brisbane, Australia, Sept. 14, 2018.

Fruit producers say their industry has been hit by commercial terrorism, but some farmers say there has been a hysterical overreaction to the scandal.

Grower Angelo Demosi said a calm approach to restore confidence is needed.

‘It is important that we take the foot forward to ensure that wholesalers and growers can assure consumers that the product is safe,’ said Demosi.

Braetop Berries strawberry farmer Aidan Young is seen before he destroys strawberries following the nationwide needle scare, on his farm in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland, Australia, Sept. 20, 2018.

Australian strawberries being exported overseas now have to pass through metal detectors.

Melissa Fitzgerald, a food science expert at the University of Queensland, said tamper-proof containers are another option.

‘It is possible that packaging technology will be brought on board so that people cannot open the strawberries or open the fruit and put something like a needle in it,’ said Fitzgerald.

As the hunt for the saboteurs continues, Australian authorities are offering large rewards to help catch them.

How the Australian residential aged-care system doesn’t care about older people’s emotional needs

All humans have fundamental needs. These are physiological (food, drink, clothing, sleep), safety (emotional security, physical safety, health), love and belonging (friendships, community), esteem (respect, dignity) and self-actualisation (accomplishment, personal development).

For people living in Australia’s residential aged-care facilities, these needs are often not met.

Most residents do not feel they are loved or belong in the facility. Like aged-care resident Neda Borenstein, whose secret camera footage broadcast on ABC’s Four Corners showed her singing the Australian national anthem in bed while she waited more than three hours to be changed. “I’m just a number,” Neda told her carer when she finally returned to help her up.

Less than one-third of residents we interviewed said they were friends with another resident. This means most don’t have the social support associated with friendships. Most residents said they felt socially isolated, which is associated with poor well-being.

A 2016 study of residents’ lived experiences in an aged-care facility found many felt they had little dignity, autonomy or control. Outside of meal and structured activity times, people with dementia spend most of their time stationary, alone and doing very little or nothing.

One study looking at interactions between residents and their carers showed residents were alone 40% of the time they were observed. When staff were present, they mostly did not engage verbally, emotionally or physically with the resident.

Aged-care facilities can also feel psychologically unsafe to residents. Residents with dementia may be locked in secure units or physically restrained, using mechanisms such as bedrails or restraining belts.

Residents sometimes don’t get along. They might argue yell, swear, pinch, hit or push each other. We don’t have good data about how often resident-to-resident verbal and physical aggression happens, but it can result in injury and even death.

The consequences of unmet needs? Residents can react negatively when their needs are not met. They become bored, sad, stressed, cranky, anxious, depressed, agitated, angry and violent.

In people with dementia, we used to call these reactions “behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia” (BPSD). But people with dementia have been pointing out these are normal human responses to neglect, not symptoms of dementia. Almost all (90%) aged-care residents display one or more of these negative reactions.

In many facilities, staff “manage” such reactions with the use of sedating antipsychotic medications. But clinical guidelines recommend looking at the reasons people may be reacting that way and addressing those before medication.

Needless treatments: antipsychotic drugs are rarely effective in ‘calming’ dementia patients

Half of nursing home residents have symptoms of depression, and a third have symptoms of anxiety. More than half of residents have been found in studies to behave in ways that might suggest they no longer wish to live. This includes refusing food or medication, one-third of residents having suicidal thoughts and a small number of nursing home residents actually taking their own lives.

Why does Australian aged care fail to meet fundamental human needs?

We might not be spending enough on aged care to enable providers to meet fundamental human needs. Australia spends about 1% of its GDP on long-term care – less than the OECD average of 1.5%.

Private investment in aged care is growing, as have residential aged care profits, but it’s a difficult industry in which to make money. Insufficient funding translates to insufficient staff and less skilled staff. Our funding system rewards dependency, and there are no funding incentives for providers to improve the psychological webeing of residents, or go beyond that to help them flourish

Friendships are an important part of healthy ageing. from shutterstock.com

People looking for a nursing home don’t have any independently provided information by which to compare quality or performance.

The National Quality Indicator Program – a program for measuring care in residential aged-care facilities that began in 2016 – was meant to provide information for people trying to compare facilities on clinical indicators of care quality.

But participation in the program is voluntary for providers. Neither quality of life nor emotional well-being indicators are included in the suite of quality indicators (even though one has been trialled and found to be suitable). We also don’t know if or when the data might be published.

What is needed?

We need a fundamental shift in community, government, service provider, staff and regulatory expectations of what residential aged care does. Our model of aged care is mainly about clinical care, while neglecting emotional care.

For instance, friendships are a unique social interaction that facilitate healthy ageing, but many residents told us that the social opportunities in their nursing home did not align with their expectations of friendship.

 

We need our model of care to be a model of a home. In a home everyone contributes, has a say in what happens in the home (such as the menu, interior design, routine and functions), is able to invite their friends to their home for a meal, and can leave during the day and come back at night. A home is a safe place, where people are loved and nurtured, and where they can be active and fulfilled.

Extract from ABC Four Corners program Australia.

(C) ABC Australia

 

 

Australian veterans suicide rate far too high – and not enough it being done.

Suicide rate among defence veterans far higher than for those currently serving

National Mental Health Commission says reason for phenomenon requires further investigation

National Mental Health Commission says ADF must improve the preparation it gives personnel for life beyond the service.
National Mental Health Commission says ADF must improve the preparation it gives personnel for life beyond the service. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

The rate of suicide among current serving Australian defence force members is much lower than the general population, but higher for those who have left the force, particularly if under 30 years of age.

The National Mental Health Commission says the reason for this phenomenon needs to be better understood, requiring further investigation.

It says the Australian Defence Force (ADF) must improve the preparation it gives personnel for life beyond the ADF, and then provide support services from the moment of discharge for the duration of post-service life.

The final report of the Commission’s review of the suicide and self-harm prevention services available to serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families was released on Thursday.

It relied on interviews with more than 3,200 serving and ex-serving ADF members, family members, and experts. It found current and former ADF personnel could access a range of suicide services, and a survey conducted for the review found 80% of current ADF members described their experience of those services as fair, good, very good or excellent.

But it heard a range of poor experiences of services, and feelings of cynicism, distrust, frustration, abandonment and loss, with many ADF members unaware that services existed, and barriers preventing some from accessing services.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the suicide rate among current serving ADF members is much lower than the general population.

When adjusting for age, when compared with all Australian men, it says the suicide rate is 53% lower for men serving in the ADF full time – a statistically significant difference.

But the suicide rate is 13% higher for men who have left the force.

The commission says this suggests the Australians recruited for military service may be at lower risk than the general population, and features of military service may also protect against the risk of suicide.

But it says more needs to be done to ensure suicide and self-harm is prevented among current and former ADF personnel.

Peggy Brown, chief executive of the National Mental Health Commission, said barriers still existed that prevented some ADF members from accessing suicide services, including stigma attached to mental health issues, the culture within the ADF, and the perception that seeking mental health treatment could have a negative impact on career progression.

“I guess what’s interesting about this is that, if that’s the reason why people are deferring seeking help then it’s more likely that their mental health state will actually deteriorate, and then it will actually impact on their career, rather than if they seek help early,” she said on Thursday.

Brown said the report identified no glaring gaps in services, but found the ADF and government ought to engage better with families.

The Commission has made 23 recommendations, including that the government specifically engage former members of the ADF aged 18–29 years, who have left the service in the last five years, and who could be at risk of suicide or self-harm.

It says further investigation is required to understand why ex-ADF members under 30 face a higher risk of suicide than the general population.

More support needs to be provided to families of current and former members, it says.

Regarding suicide rates among current and ex-personnel, he said initial figures showed there was no correlation between those who had served overseas and those who had committed suicide.

“As a matter of fact, it shows those who have stayed here, the incidence is slightly higher,” he said. “But we really need to do a lot more work in this area, and that’s why we really are now beginning to drill down [into new data].”

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

A recent study found 292 certified suicide deaths among serving and ex-serving personnel between 2001 and 2014.

The total included 84 suicide deaths in the serving full-time population, 66 in the reserve population and 142 in the ex-serving population.

Men accounted for more than nine in 10 suicide deaths (272 deaths, 93%) over that period, while women accounted for 20 deaths (7%).

Nearly three in five suicide deaths among serving and ex-serving personnel were of people aged 18–34 (170 deaths, 58%).

Of these, 66 deaths (23%) were among people aged 18–24; 58 (20%) were people aged 25–29; and 46 (16%) were aged 30–34.

  • For information and support in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

(c) Guardian Australia

Mental health help in Australia is a joke

GPs struggle in a system ill-equipped to deal with mental health

I sat in the waiting room staring at my hands, willing them to stop shaking. Anxiety was a fighter jet, roaring through my cells, dropping grenades from head to toe.

When the doctor called my name I shuffled after her, a shrunken version of a self I no longer recognised. Fixing her eyes on a computer screen, she hammered the keys and asked me to explain why I was there.

Our complex emotional pain is being treated with six-minute medicine by time-poor GPs, says Jill Stark.
Our complex emotional pain is being treated with six-minute medicine by time-poor GPs, says Jill Stark.

Photo: Christopher Nielsen

When I told her I was experiencing what felt like an acute recurrence of the depression and anxiety I’d grappled with since I was a teenager she pushed a sheet of paper across the desk and I began to tick boxes.

During the last 30 days, how often did you feel hopeless? … During the last 30 days, how often did you feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down? … How often did you feel so sad nothing could cheer you up?

Ten questions, scored from one to five, with one being ‘none of the time’ and five ‘all of the time’. Under 20 is well. Over 30 is a severe mental-health disorder.

“You got 25, which means you’re only mild to moderately depressed, so there’s not much to worry about,” she said, reaching for the prescription pad before asking if I was suicidal.

I thought about it for a while and said no. “Good. These ones aren’t prescribed very often these days because they’re much easier to overdose on. But you’re not suicidal, so that’s fine.”

Less than fifteen minutes after I sat down I stood on the street weeping. I had no support, no plan for how I was going to make it through the day, armed only with the knowledge that should I want my kill myself the drugs I’d been prescribed were well-equipped for the job.

Journalist Jill Stark.

I wish this was an isolated experience. But since documenting my mental health battles in my recent memoir Happy Never After, I’ve been inundated with messages from people across Australia telling similar stories.

Our complex emotional pain is being treated with six-minute medicine by time-poor GPs struggling to meet demand in a system woefully ill-equipped to deal with the mental health challenges of modern life.

It was revealed in recent days that GP waiting rooms are crammed full of patients with psychological problems.

Research released by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners found that 62 per cent of people visiting a doctor are presenting with mental health problems – significantly more than any other medical condition.

College president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon said doctors are in an impossible situation, forced to either charge patients for more time to manage these complex problems or wear the out-of-pocket costs themselves.

“As access to psychologists and psychiatrists can be restrictive, to say the least, GPs must not only work as the frontline of support – but as the entire support model, something which is currently not supported by patient Medicare rebates,” he said.

How much longer can we continue like this? When will we stop treating emotional health as the poor cousin to physical health?

We are in the grip of a mental health crisis. We have the highest Australian youth suicide rate in a decade. More people are depressed, anxious and medicated than at any other time in our history. If trends continue, clinical depression will be the second most disabling condition behind heart disease by 2020.

Raising awareness is not enough. The time for wristbands and hashtags has passed. We have learned to ask R U OK but when the answer is ‘no’, too often there is nowhere to go.

Our Medicare system needs to better reflect the times we live in and the health problems we face. Doctors need the financial support to offer longer consultations for patients with complex psychological needs.

And as a matter of urgency, we must stop rationing psychological services to ten subsidised sessions per year.

When I was at my lowest point, I saw my psychologist twice week just to keep my head above water. I raced through my Medicare sessions in five weeks.

At almost $200 per hour, I then had to raise almost $400 a week just to stay in therapy and out of hospital.

There are few other areas of healthcare where we place such arbitrary limits on a patient’s ability to recover.

Through life’s lottery I was fortunate enough to have a supportive employer, and family who could afford to fund my therapy. Without their assistance I honestly don’t think I’d be alive.

Not everyone is so lucky. Many people are no longer here because they couldn’t afford their mental illness. It’s a devastating indictment on a system that is fundamentally broken.

We must demand better. The chances of surviving our emotional pain should not be determined by the balance of our bank accounts.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Jill Stark is a Melbourne journalist and author of Happy Never After

(c) Fairfax Media Australia.