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Millions for Victorian kids’ mental health

For troubled kids in Victoria, the state’s minister for mental health has offered some monetary respite.

Martin Foley has announced a $14 million upgrade to children’s health services in the state, including an integration of the Early in Life Mental Health Services (ELMHS) unit into the new Monash Children’s Hospital.

The ELMHS provides services like psychiatry and behaviour therapy for a range of mental health issues, to infants, children, adolescents, their families and community agencies.

Foley indicated rates of domestic violence, leading to children’s ill mental health, spurred the investment. “[It] will give services greater ability to treat children experiencing behaviour disorders or psychological trauma as a result of family violence and abuse,” he declared.

This is perhaps fitting, considering more than a third of Australian children have experienced family violence, although national children’s mental health statistics suggest neither a mental health epidemic nor a funding crisis in this sector.

How sick are our kids?

While mental health funding is always welcome, the report on the second national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of Australian children and adolescents, published last year, states that severe mental health problems afflict only 2.1 per cent of Australian children.

The survey also found that ADHD and anxiety were the leading pediatric mental disorders, and that most of these cases were mild.

The report on the first national children’s mental health survey, published in 2000, also found ADHD to be the most common mental disorder among children. From 2000 to 2015, ADHD’s prevalence decreased by two percentage points.

A dearth of funding?

Despite this, children with mental disorders increasingly accessed services for treatment of their conditions between the survey years.

Mental health funding was concordantly amplified, as the latest National Mental Health Report revealed, and now forms 8 per cent of the national health budget.

Foley provided his basis for further spending on child mental health: “Investing in mental health earlier in life not only benefits Victorians later in life, but also will have multiple benefits for our health system.”

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