Misleading Claims In The Mental Health Reform Debate
Melissa Raven and Jon Jureidini, Online Opinion, 9 August 2010
Since Professor Patrick McGorry was appointed 2010 Australian of the Year, mental health has had a remarkably prominent public profile.
GetUp has played a major role, with a campaign promoting McGorry’s call for radical reform, particularly in relation to youth mental health, arguing that early intervention should be the norm. Many Australians have enthusiastically responded, donating money, signing a petition, and sending faxes to politicians.
A further impetus came when Adjunct Professor John Mendoza dramatically resigned as Chair of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health (or, as he terms it, “head advisor to the Rudd Government on mental health”) and joined the GetUp campaign. Mendoza endorses many of McGorry’s demands, including a national rollout of headspace youth mental health centres and the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC).
McGorry and Mendoza are adept at capturing media attention, using emotive statistics and feel-good messages as powerful soundbites. However, few people seem to have critically examined their claims, which have been widely accepted at face value.
We have examined several claims, and found them seriously problematic. Not only is there a high degree of spin in the rhetoric but also there is misrepresentation of evidence.
Two claims are analysed here. In each case the evidence cited to justify the claim, although relevant, does not support it, and other evidence challenges the validity of the claim.