Emergency Mental Health Services


It is estimated that one in five people will be affected at some stage by a mental health problem or illness. The increasing prevalence of mental illness means that at some point in time most of us will either be affected or we will know of someone who is.

Although most people with mental illness can be treated in the community, at times some may require emergency treatment or admission to hospital for shortterm intensive therapy.

Not only are more mental health patients presenting to an emergency department for treatment than ever before, they are reportedly sicker and a greater number require admission to a hospital bed for further treatment. And, because of its very nature, those suffering from acute mental illness may not understand what is wrong or be able to communicate their problems clearly.

This makes access to emergency mental health services a significant issue for government that requires continuing attention.

The focus of this report is on the provision of 24-hour crisis services to adults. Emergency mental health services play a vital role in providing timely and appropriate care. Without proper treatment the severity of the illness may escalate, increasing the risk of self-harm or harm to others.

There have been many changes to mental health services over the last decade to deal with increasing demand. Much has been done to improve access to, and the quality of emergency services through significant increases in funding, the opening of new beds and the employment of more mental health staff.

Yet recent reviews have highlighted problems with accessing mental health beds and inadequate levels of psychiatric support in rural areas.

I believe that our report will provide valuable assistance to area health services on alternative models of emergency mental health care that better manage patient risk and further improve service quality.


Parliamentary reference - Report number #136 - released 26 May 2005