Most people are expecting some big announcements during the leadup to this Federal Elaction from both major parties. Some will affect the entire population, some will be local. Nothing has been announced so far that is anything other than what we already knew. No fresh ideas, no promises, nothing to sway our opinions.
Perhaps nothing will be announced that will be suprising or new, maybe the focus on getting the budget back in the black has left no room for anything else.
If anything does happen though, I would like it to happen in these three areas.
Firstly, in dentistry. Forever ago (about 3 years) it was announced that all Australians would have access to free dental care at some point. I just want to know when. If it's not happening for a while then I would like to know why Dentistry could not fall under the specialist category, allowing us to take our reciepts into Medicare for a partial refund. Surely this is not too much to ask. The cost of visiting the dentist is getting beyond the majority of the population, not just those on low incomes, and that needs to change.
The second improvement I would like to see is in Mental Health. Currently, you can have a Mental Health Plan done for you at any GP free of charge. This plan enables you to have several visits to a psychologist, at a heavily discounted cost, over a few months. You can have these plans done again when your current plan expires and this is a huge help for those who require it. My concern is not with this process, it's a good one and it works.
The area I would like to see improvements in is the process by which a mental health illness is diagnosed. Most people are unaware of the signs to look for and continue through life undiagnosed. This puts pressure on loved ones, schools, collegues, but most importantly, the sufferer. We desperately need more education on these things, similar to the advertising campaign for youth that is currently running.
Men in their 30's are committing suicide on an almost daily basis throughout Australia and this must stop. Women of all ages are suffering panic attacks and undergoing various tests, trying to find the source of the problem and wasting valuable time, as we know that early diagnosis of Panic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia give you the best chance for a cure. Depression and anxiety are absolutely, most definately, treatable. The treatment is good, the process is not expensive. The signs are there, we need to give all of the population the tools needed to recognise them.
The third area that requires immediate consideration is related to those with children that fall outside 'the box'. It is proven that early intervention is the key to overcoming most learning difficulties faced by those with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and I am sure it is equally important for those with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder). These are conditions being diagnosed much more frequently, primarily because our diagnostic tools are better.
The problem is not the treatment, if accessed early, those available are fantastic. The problem is the diagnosis. I have heard year 4 teachers say they have a student they suspect of falling into one of these categories but was undiagnosed. Without diagnosis there is no treatment and without treatment, by year 4, these disorders are have already made learning at school much more difficult. Too many children are falling by the wayside because we do not have adequate training for our Kindergarten and Prep teachers. Not only is early diagnosis important for the student and their ability to learn, if diagnosed after the age of 7 funding for treatment is no longer available to parents. This means that parents have to pay for specialists and tools required out of their own pockets, in full. Before age 7 there is an excellent funding package that allows parents to get their children access to all the necessary processes annd treatments available, free of charge.
In this, the age of the Education Revolution, it is essential that we don't just give our children the best quality education available, we must also give this to our teachers. Parents are ill equipped to recognise the signs of high functioning ASD such as Aspergers, as often, the things our children do that put them in these categories are subtle in the home. Not so in the classroom however.
Teachers need to have the support of the school when aproaching parents regarding their child, they need to be confident that the possibility is high for a diagnosis and they need the support of the community in treating the child so that they get the same quality of education as all other students in the class.
With adequate dentistry available to the broader population at an affordable cost, help in recognising the signs of mental illness's that respond best to early treatment and equiping our teachers and schools with the tools to give all students the best start, we would have the beginnings of a healthier, smarter, more confident Australia.