An open letter to Mr Mark Butler MP

**This post is dedicated to everyone living with mental illness who cannot access services due to the massive and deadly cuts to psychological services.**

>>Suicide Warning: This article mentions suicide, if you or anyone you know is suffering with suicidal ideation PLEASE contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or their online services <<

Dear Mr Butler,

I am writing to you today on behalf of everyone living with a mental illness about the fragile state of mental health care in Australia. I am frightened at and for the numbers of people who cannot access mental health services due to the severe limitations placed on them by your policies. These people are sick. They need to see trained professionals in order to find ways to get their lives back on track and return to being productive and content members of our society.

Mr Butler, I am hesitant to again remind you of the epidemic levels of suicide across the Australian population. I feel that I must as you don’t seem to see the connection to a lack of services and the deaths of so many of our people. Lifeline estimates that 2,500 people successfully complete their suicide plan. 2,500 PEOPLE are dead Mr Butler and you want us to be thankful for 10 sessions per year? More people die from suicide than road accidents in Australia and yet you cut funding rather than adding to it. Lifeline further estimates that for every successful attempted at suicide there is approximately 30 unsuccessful attempts. That’s 180 attempts in Australia per day. This equates to a new attempt every 10 minutes. Knowing this Mr Butler, how can you cut services? Please don’t tell me that these people can seek psychiatric services because that is baseless argument there aren’t enough beds in Psychiatric hospitals let alone enough psychiatrists to service the population. Psychologists and Psychiatrists operate under different models of care which are complimentary to each other and choice should not be taken away from people because the government places a financial value on the lives of people living with mental illness.

The consequences of these cuts are far reaching. Think about this:

For every person who attempts suicide, whether they are successful or not, there are family and friends sitting on the side lines powerless to access services for their loved ones. Most people have no idea who to speak too, let alone what to do in such a frightening situation. You are failing these people as well.

Let’s pretend for arguments sake that for each attempt (n=180) there are 4 family members who are directly affected. That equates to approximately 7,500 people left to ask “Why” and no one to help them answer this very heartbreaking question. The grief of losing a loved one to suicide is considered one of the most severe forms grief that can lead to mental illnesses such a depression within the family survivor populations. I found this information on a government website. So again, I ask you Mr Butler, knowing these outcomes, how can you cut services to mental health? How can you sit there and ask us to be thankful for 10 sessions? We are not thankful. We are afraid.

Let me explain something to you about treating mental illness. There’s no penicillin for us. There’s no pill that can take it away. This wouldn’t be an issue if there were. Firstly, it takes about 4 sessions to take a clients history. For some it may take longer (for myself it can take 6 weeks just to get through my history as it is long and complicated both medically and psychologically) for others it may not. Neither you nor I have the right to say how long it should take. This should be left to the skills the practitioner  Also, a relationship needs to be established between practitioner and client, again this can be instant or it can take weeks or even months.  Neither you nor I have any right to tell people how long this should take.

So lets take a look at how short 10 sessions fall for people living with mental illness.



6 treatment sessions is all that is left for a practitioner and the their clients to work through what can be some very painful experiences. Mr Butler, would you ask a cancer patient to have 6 rounds of chemo, if it was scientifically indicated that they need 15? Would you ask a diabetic to have only 6 injections of insulin (or tablets) a year? Would you ask a survivor of a road accident to only have 6 visits with their rehab specialists? No you wouldn’t, because that would lead to deaths. So why is it okay to limit people living mental illness access to life saving services? Even when all the data suggests that a minimum of 26 sessions is required to reach significant changes in mild cases of depression.

When crisis hits for people all over Australia, do you know what happens? They go to the emergency departments of their local hospitals and  are turned away. They call CAT Teams and wait 4 days for the team to show up. This isn’t their fault. It’s yours. Children in need of behavioural interventions are turned away from services such as CAHMS as they don’t have the funding “to help everyone”. So people who struggle financially have no support for themselves and their children. I don’t blame them for that, I blame you. Before you dismiss me saying that CAHMS is state funded, I know that, but you could take the pressure off these services by do something to help rather than cut services.

If you can’t put millions of dollars into sucking up to other countries, you could put money into helping the people you are suppose to be serving, you know, the people of Australia. As I have pointed out in the many emails that I have sent you, people living with mental illness and their families vote. You can’t ignore us forever. We will be here, no matter if you win the election or not. And for those who can’t speak for themselves, I will speak for them. You can’t ignore me, I’m loud and persistant. Who knew that having OCD would pay off for me…

Yours hopefully


That is all


##All opinions in the following blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions of people and services mentioned in this article. ##




2 thoughts on “An open letter to Mr Mark Butler MP

  1. This is a brilliant, well researched and constructed letter and a reminder to keep raising awareness of the incidence and consequences of poor mental health in our community. Thank you. david henderson.

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