Parke promoted

06NEWS mental melissaSUPPORT for mental health and homelessness in Fremantle received a boost this week with the promotion of federal Labor MP Melissa Parke to parliamentary secretary.

Fremantle’s federal member since 2007, she says mental health is a critical and challenging area of health policy, “and I’m keenly aware of how it is related to issues like homelessness and insecurity of housing”.

Sworn in on Monday, her role involves supporting mental health, ageing and housing minister Mark Butler.

“I was glad to make the case for the establishment of a headspace centre in Fremantle as a key part of the government’s historic $2.2 billion mental health funding and reform package,” Ms Parke told the Herald. “And I know there is more work to be done.

“I will certainly be taking the input insights, and encouragement that I have received from my Fremantle constituents into the work I undertake as a parliamentary secretary.”

The promotion earns Ms Parke a couple of extra staff who can work full time on portfolio matters.

Headspace centres such as that on High Street are focused on youth mental health care and advice. They do not provide beds or residential care.

“There are currently 30 operational headspace centres, with a further 10 announced,” Ms Parke says. “The government has allocated $342 million over five years to establish up to 90 headspace centres by 2014-2015.”

Former WA health minister and mental health council of Australia chair Keith Wilson says the spate of Alma Street suicides is a symptom of a failing system.

Running as an independent candidate for an upper house seat in the south metropolitan region, he proposes the establishment of specialist clinics detached from hospital emergency departments.

Such clinics could be funded by selling off land on existing hospital sites such as at Alma Street and the state’s biggest mental health inpatient facility in Graylands in Mt Claremont.

“These centres should be run under a new mental health system by a department with its own director-general,” he told the Herald. “We need more mental health beds.”

A new University of Sydney study of 2000-plus teenagers accessing headspace reveals one in 10 with a mental illness drinks, smokes or uses cannabis. Researchers found the youngest group (12 to 17 years) is twice as likely to report weekly alcohol use compared to 12 to 17-year-olds in the general population. Similarly, daily nicotine use is at least twice as high as the general population.

“From a physical health perspective, there is an urgent need to establish an early intervention agenda for these individuals who are at high risk of premature death or physical health morbidity from a range of medical conditions,” the authors note in the latest edition of the online medical journal BMJ Open.

“From a mental health perspective, there is a need to better understand the early stages of substance misuse in young people with emerging mental disorders.”

by CARMELO AMALFI

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