FORMER Australian of the year and leading psychiatrist Pat McGorry has joined election candidate Keith Wilson’s campaign to improve mental health services.
Dr Wilson is a former WA Labor health minister and mental health council chairman who is running on this single issue as an independent candidate for an upper house seat in the south metropolitan region.
His move follows a spate of suicides at Alma Street and inquiries into the mental health system by the WA coroner and health department.
Dr McGorry says he hopes to be in Fremantle in a couple of weeks to help Dr Wilson officially launch his pre-election campaign.
“Keith has been a keen leader and fighter for a better mental health system in WA,” he told the Herald.
“I’m happy to support him if it puts mental health on the political agenda.”
Dr Wilson has stepped back from calling for a royal commission—the last one was held 50 years ago this year.
He proposes a new mental health system run by a department with its own director-general and specialist clinics to avoid mental health patients clogging up hospital emergency departments (Herald online, “Parke promoted,” February 8, 2013).
Such clinics could be funded by selling land at hospital sites such as at Alma Street and the state’s biggest mental health inpatient facility, Graylands in Mt Claremont.
Dr McGorry agrees, saying “mainstreaming” mental health care has not worked in Australia.
“We have countless examples of where general doctors and nurses don’t have the level of respect and care needed to deal with mental health patients,” he says.
“Often they are badly treated and even shackled.”
He says the level of scrutiny and number of inquiries into mental health in WA is symptomatic of a “serious crisis”. “Mental health minister Helen Morton recognises the depth of crisis, but unless the government responds to the pressure, the momentum for change is not there,” he says.
by CARMELO AMALFI