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Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Tags: Mental Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, speaking to the amended motion is, substantially, speaking to the underlying motion. Given the time, I will comment on this amendment.

I thank Ms Dow for bringing this motion on. National Mental Health Week is an important time for us all to reflect on the lives of people who are living in mental health distress, or with a mental health illness. The statistics show that most of us will, to some degree or another, have periods of mental ill health. It is normal, in that it happens often to many people; but that does not mean that it is unavoidable and it does not mean that it should not be prevented in every opportunity possible.

The science and the social research tells us that there is an abundance of ways we can help people who are in mental health crisis or suffering from mental ill health, and very importantly, we can do a lot in the early stages of life helping families to make sure that mental ill health does not occur amongst children, or in later life, as a result of trauma and experiences in childhood that are often entirely preventable. The Greens commit to working on the underlying conditions that give rise to the epidemic of mental ill health in our community. We recognise that most of those conditions have some social injustice at their core and there are ways of dealing with that.

We can make choices as a society where we put our resources, how we help people and how active we are with groups at stamping out inequality and poverty and the other conditions that lead to real stress for working people and for families. There are some situations where all we can do is alleviate the suffering of people who have had terrible experiences but, as a parliament and as the government, our role should be at least to do no harm in the policies and in the resource application of government.

Doing no harm means not having policies which, at their core, are driving the social inequalities which we know lead to extreme mental health breakdowns, distress, poverty, violence, abuse and neglect. That is why we cannot pass without noting the awful irony of having the pokies legislation come on during Mental Health Week; to have this today and not to mention things like the structural inequalities which give rise to the social conditions that lead to families living in extreme poverty, families living in crisis, workers working in appalling conditions.

The pokies legislation that is before this House tomorrow - and shame on both the Labor and Liberal parties for their intention to fundamentally support the status quo for a forever future in Tasmania for pokies in our communities. It means that we are committing, as a Parliament, to entrenching social disadvantage and harm. That is a specific case that is right here, right now, where policy makers, legislators, can vote to not be part of a piece of legislation that will enshrine the continuation of harm and damage in communities around Tasmania.

I am sure Ms Ogilvie, the member for Clark, would be more than familiar with the stories of people in her electorate - the harm, the damage to people's lives, the neglect, the abuse, the mental desperation, suicides and the violence that goes with people who have become addicted to poker machines - which are designed for people to become addicted. I hope Ms Ogilvie will reflect on that tomorrow, when the legislation comes before us.

It is so important that we all take responsibility for the people in our electorates and for the people of Tasmania. It is also a terrible irony that the Premier has announced an essentially greenwash target for 2030 which ostensibly is signalling to young people who will be at the climate strike on Friday 'don't worry, we have got this one, we are doing everything we can'. If only that were true.

The two things that are on the table that this Government can and needs to do, to be showing national leadership on climate action, is to have sectoral targets for the sectors that have had emissions growing year on year since 1990, in transport, agriculture, industrial processes and energy. We have to have a plan to reduce emissions. It is not good enough anymore to have softly, softly, to have chats to businesses, give them a little bit of help. We need that too; but we need a bit of stick. It has gone past time for carrot. We have been doing carrot for decades and carrot hasn't got us anywhere -diddly squat, on the world stage, and we are part of that.

While our forests, which have been protected under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement - thank you, Labor-Greens government - have been doing the heavy lifting of having us be net zero for six years now, everything else has been business as usual. This is the problem. We have to stop business as usual. We cannot keep doing it.

It will only be five years' time, three years' time, two years' time, when we will be sitting in this place and a whole lot of systems around the world are unravelling. We have the finance sector waking up all around the planet, and they are coming for Australia.

Tasmania, as much as we might like to think we are long way away, we are part of Australia and will be caught up in it. If the Premier does not get on the phone and have a talk to his Liberal mates and make it really clear that if we want to have an opportunity for a future for our businesses in Tasmania by 2030, then he needs to get over to Glasgow and make some positive commitments, not only greenwash and spin. It is in our state's interest for the Premier to be talking to his mate, Scott Morrison, and to be saying, 'You need to do this for us; you need to stop listening to the coal and gas lobby. You need to listen to the science'.

It is fundamentally about not doing harm first and then helping people as best you can. I have no problem with the amendment that is on the table from Ms Ogilvie. She talks about young people deserving more access to mental health support and the services, but I do not understand why it is in principle. I would never take away a general point when there is a specific one there.

The Labor Party's motion is calling for specific action. It is not calling it for next year. It is calling for it by July 2023. We are not talking an unreasonable length of time. Given the gravity of what you have just talked about, Ms Ogilvie, and the importance of action I would have thought you would be more than happy to sign up to this. We are talking two years away. I could say maybe it should be 2022? Can we wait that long? However, we will go with what is before us.

It is more important to have actions rather thoughts so on that basis, although I appreciate what you are doing I do not think it is any substantial change to the motion we have before us, so I will not be supporting the amended motion. Not because I do not agree with it, I just do not think it goes as far as the original one does. On that basis it is better to have the original one.

National Mental Health Week is an important marker and there has been some progress. However, there is still not nearly enough effort put into young and adolescent mental health, not nearly enough resources for people who need access to psychologists and psychiatrists. The minister probably understands that you cannot whistle these people up. That should be very instructive for why we have to take the approach with nurses and midwives that we have not taken with psychiatrists. We have to get on with this stuff. There is a long lag time to getting people here.

Anything that we can do to improve the conditions for social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists living in Tasmania and trained here is to everybody's advantage because there are a lot of people living with trauma. The more we understand about the impact of trauma on brains and bodies and physiology the more we realise it is good value to be helping people early in life to start processing some of the experiences that they have had so that they can have a full and flourishing life and contribute to the community as much as they would like to do.