It has been announced that The Butterfly Foundation, Australia’s peak full-time support service for people will no longer have guaranteed funds from June 2017 as a result of Federal Government reconstruction of mental health services.
The Butterfly Foundation costs $700,000 annually and now, its national support line only has funding until June 2017. This is to make way for the Federal Government development of a new centralised online “gateway” for online mental health services.
A letter from the Federal Department of Health obtained by the ABC states: “It will bring together and streamline access to existing evidence-based information, advice and digital mental health treatment and connect people to services through a centralised telephone and web portal.”
Despite this, experts say it is vital to have specialised services considering only 30% of those suffering from an eating disorder access treatment. A centralised service, especially with the delicate nature of eating disorders, may scare away those seeking help.
“Somebody suffering an eating disorder does not get the appropriate care and counselling if they ring in a general mental health line,” said Christine Morgan.
More than 1 million Australians suffer from an eating disorder and anorexia has the highest death rate of any mental illness (a person with anorexia is 32 times more likely to commit suicide).
The Butterfly Foundation‘s chief executive, Christine Morgan has said the helpline assisted more than 1,000 people each month.
“We’ve been told we only have another 12 months of certain funding for it,” she said. “To be honest, it fills me with horror because at the moment, this is the only national dedicated service for people with eating disorders.”
This will have a significant impact on those suffering with eating disorders who see the foundation as a lifeline. In light of this news, Brynn Davis, journalist for the the Huffington Post comments on how The Butterfly Foundation is needed within the mental health community:
“The Butterfly Foundation helpline gives people with eating disorders an opportunity to cry out for help… Without [their] support… there is no where left for us to go.”
The future of 20 more online mental health services, including Lifeline and SANE Australia remains unclear.