Michael Back: What’s actually happening to people who can’t get treatment?
Don McDonald: They’re in the jails. They’re going to boarding houses. They’re in the parks, in the railway stations. They haven’t been de-institutionalised; the institutions have just been changed. Instead of having a hospital where you’ve got professional treatment, they’re now in the jails.
Current government services are only treating about 13 per cent of them. And with unlimited government funding based on limited supply of beds, doctors and nurses and so on, the best they could do would be to alleviate the aggregate disability by about 22 per cent. But the key point is that 78 per cent of the disability caused by the illness can only be treated by science. Can only be treated by research. And there has been no qualitative change in the type of psychotic treatments available since about the 1950s.
People don’t understand…they have no idea that we’ve got a crisis among our youth. Schizophrenia is sweeping through our youth like a silent bush fire, and people are just not aware of it, or they don’t want to know. And these people, if we don’t address this problem, these people are going to be a tremendous burden on the community for the rest of their lives.
Greg Bright: One fund in particular that has gone out, beyond the Superfriend program, into its workplace over a long period and measured the results is MTAA. Alex can you tell us a bit about that?
Alex Sachinidis: Sure. Well I think the important thing about MTAA Super was that we took a decision to do something about some of the statistics we have gathered in terms of people committing suicide, and other associated illnesses which led to a lot of the members taking insurance to cover periods outside of the workforce. But mainly it was that our suicide rates were considered to be disproportionately high compared with the general community.
Greg Bright: So more than 10 per cent of death claims were suicide?
Alix Sachinidis: It was something in the order of 27 per cent. We decided as a fund that it was remiss of us not to do something. We collaborated with several organisations that raised the awareness within the workplace about signs that employees and employers might notice in their colleagues, and how they could offer them some assistance. It’s as simple as that, but I think it went down very well.