An MP has broken down in parliament while speaking about a deeply personal issue.
An MP has broken down in parliament while speaking about how she lost a schoolmate to suicide 27 years ago.
The emotional moment came as Liberal MP Dr Fiona Martin, a psychologist, tabled a parliamentary inquiry’s final report on mental health and suicide prevention which makes 44 recommendations to improve the system.
The member for Reid and inquiry’s chairwoman said they’d found a mental health system that was “fragmented” and significantly under strain – exacerbated by bushfires, natural disasters and the pandemic.
“We have seen a significant increase in the demand for mental health services across Australia and we know that this increase demand is being put on a system already undeniably under strain,” Dr Martin said.
“It is being put on a mental health system that is fragmented and at times failing to provide the treatment and support that people who need it legitimately expect.
“Access to quality mental health care when you need it is as essential as being able to see a GP.
“I am committed to the recommendations of this report and I am driven by both my professional personal life to see this implemented.”
Her voice later started to break and she started to cry when she spoke about her friend, Brett, who took his own life at a young age.
“I’m driven by the memory of the school desk that sat empty behind me one Monday morning 27 years ago,” Dr Martin said.
“The memory of Brett, that tall, handsome, intelligent young man who was always kind, but would not be returning to school because he had taken his own life.
“How often I still reflect on a life that was not fully lived.”
The report has recommended there be a minimum of one psychologist appointed for every 500 students across all levels of school.
“We would not accept a situation where our children could not accept timely treatment for a broken bone,” Dr Martin said.
“We should not accept a situation where it can take months for them to see mental health services that they need.”
It has also recommended the government look into the viability of bulk-billing mental health practitioners where patients are unable to afford the service.
The 372-page report also asked the government to reform the Medicare Benefits Schedule so mental health treatment plans and consultations by GPs have the same rebate value as chronic disease management plans.
The report estimates the cost of mental ill health and suicide costs Australia about $70 billion a year.