Nicqui Yazdi, director of the MindRight Institute, holds a candle in support of the mentally ill at last night’s Mental Health Vigil at the Byron Bay Youth Activity Centre.
Nicqui Yazdi, director of the MindRight Institute, holds a candle in support of the mentally ill at last night’s Mental Health Vigil at the Byron Bay Youth Activity Centre. Jerad Williams

Vigil for mentally ill

EVERY year one-in-five Australians will suffer a mental illness, a vigil in Byron Bay was told last night.

Nicqui Yazdi knows first-hand the tragic consequences if people aren’t properly treated by medical professionals.

Less than a month ago, when her uncle realised his son was depressed, he took him to a GP.

Recognising the symptoms the GP referred him to a phycologist. However, due to lack of services, Ms Yazdi’s cousin could not make an appointment for a few weeks.

The following day, the 30-year-old took his own life. It wasn’t until the family read his diary that they realised the extent of his problems.

“Maybe he would have done it if he got an appointment, but it’s terrible when you have someone who is suicidal and you can’t get them in to see a specialist for three weeks,” Ms Yazdi said.

It is a commonly-told story across Australia with mental illness a major cause of death for those under 44 years, the mental health vigil was told.

Organised as part of a national vigil by activist group GetUp! to highlight the need for mental health reform, those attending the Byron vigil wrote letters to politicians asking for more funding before placing the letters in a coffin.

“The vigil is more than just about those lives that have been lost,” said Ms Yazdi, who is director of the MindRight Institute.

“It is also about those lives that will be lost in the future if we don’t stand up and influence government to recognise just how big the problems of mental health care are in Australia and provide adequate funding.”

Over its three budgets, the Rudd Government has slashed $354.6 million from mental health programs. And of the $181 million committed to mental health over the next four years, only $31.4 million is new money.

“We want to put pressure on our local candidates for better policies on the issue,” Ms Yazdi said.

She later read a letter to the vigil from Australian of the Year and mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry.

GetUp! national director Simon Sheikh said: “We know what needs to be done to fix our broken mental health system, and we know it needs to be done now.”



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