I have often railed against the overall poor quality of journalism in Australia1-4. However, when I refer to journalists, I of course exclude most of those who work for Murdoch’s News Corp, because calling them journalists is an insult to real journalists5-6.
Many journalists in Australia are like toddlers in one way; they are obsessed with the here and now, with little knowledge or interest in what has gone before, by way of giving the here and now some context. To give you an example:
Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation and provides early intervention mental health services to young people of 12-25 years in age. Headspace helps young people with mental health, physical (including sexual) health, alcohol and other drug services, as well as work and study support. Many traditional services aren’t equipped to address the barriers that young people face in accessing mental health support. Headspace began in 2006 to address this critical gap, and has a focus on early intervention. The organisation works with young people to provide support at a crucial time in their lives – to help get them back on track and increase their ability to manage their mental health in the future7.
In the 2016-2017 budget, Scott Morrison, then Treasurer, cut funding to mental health services, including a 75% cut in funding over two years for specialist youth mental health programs provided by Headspace and the Youth Psychosis program8.
At that time, Headspace’s income from government grants (by far their largest source of income) went from $174 million in 2016, to $34 million in 2017, to $35 million in 2018, to $38 million in 2019, to $42 million in 20209-12.
In the five years prior to 2017, the suicide rate among 18-24-year-olds, part of Headspace’s target demographic, had climbed from 11.9 per 100,000 to 14.5 per 100,000, but was starting to level off, with the increase from 2016 to 2017 being from 14.4 to 14.5 per 100,000. However, from 2017 to 2019 it increased from 14.5 to 16.1 per 100,00013. I don’t know if the dramatic decrease in Headspace funding and the jump in suicide deaths are related, but it is surely worth investigating. Will any journalist do that? I doubt it.
What do those reporting on the budget have to say about this? Not much. Most only report what the budget says, sometimes with a bit of commentary about how it is not enough to attempt to solve the problems they are trying to address14-17.
As a consequence of this lack of context and history, it makes the average punter, who believes that newspapers report the news, think that all things are going swimmingly, and that the government has some sort of empathy for young people, especially those with mental illness. Meanwhile young Australians continue to die, and the government continues to pretend to care.