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The Australian Federal Government has begun to investigate how Australians with mental illnesses can overcome barriers to education, training and employment.
Charity organisations have expressed their support for the new inquiry, with Wesley Mission welcoming the research.
“From our experience and research there is a strong link between mental health issues and the degree of workforce engagement and participation,” the CEO of Wesley Mission, the Rev Dr Keith Garner said.
The committee’s inquiry will concentrate on:
• Improving access to education and employment services through greater collaboration between government and health, education, training and employment service providers.
• Strategies to improve the ability of people, families, community members and employers to respond to the needs of people with mental illnesses.
“This inquiry affords the Committee a unique opportunity to inform the Government’s ongoing commitment to mental health care reform and maximizing employment participation,” Committee Chair Amanda Rishworth said.
Dr Garner of Wesley Mission said that employers were often the first contact point for people with mental health issues.
“Employers, educators and employment providers need to be skilled in identifying mental health issues, reducing stigma and developing a knowledge base to refer people to appropriate services,” he said. “The earlier the intervention the greater probability of recovery or sustainable management of the problem.”
In 2010, Wesley Mission released a study showing that 77 percent of people surveyed have either suffered from mental health problems or know a sufferer.
The survey was conducted with more then 2000 people.
“A range of services and support already exist for students, job seekers and employees with mental illnesses. A key focus of our inquiry will be to examine how we can continue to enhance these in order to improve people’s participation in education, training and employment,” said Ms Rishworth in relation to the inquiry’s new aims.
Dr Garner of Wesley Missions said that the survey done by the Mission indicates that there are many sufferers of mental illness, particularly amongst young people, who do not seek formal care.
“One of the reasons is the stigma, the uninformed community attitudes which make sufferers ashamed to admit the way they feel. We need people to feel free enough to access help and access it early,” said Dr Garner.