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Mental health workers 'despair' at state of NSW system

The NSW mental health system is in crisis and struggling to operate with less funding per capita than other states, according to a new report by front-line service providers.

The cracks left schizo-affective bipolar disorder patient Joel in and out of hospital and at times unable to find or afford the care he needs.

Joel says that since being diagnosed in 2016, following multiple attempts on his own life, treatment has been patchy.

"I have been unable to get on to the books of either a psychiatrist or psychologist after moving house six months ago, and I've been told to expect to wait several more months," he said.

Joel said that in one case he chose to forgo medication because of the cost, which led to him being readmitted to hospital.

A new mental health workers' alliance is hoping to draw attention to the crisis ahead of the March 25 state election and make it a top priority for the next government.

Victoria and Queensland invest more in mental health per person than NSW, and both states plan to increase funding further, according to the alliance.

More than 1300 mental health workers, including psychiatrists, GPs, mental health nurses and psychologists, were surveyed for the report.

The chair of the NSW Branch of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Angelo Virgona, says the mental health system is languishing.

"I hesitate to call it a system because that would assume some level of coherence," Dr Virgona said.

"We want to see commitment towards the sector being better resourced, better managed, more coherent, and better connected."

A spokeswoman for NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said that, if re-elected, the coalition government would work with the sector to ensure it met the needs of consumers in a compassionate and responsive manner.

"The NSW government has undertaken significant investment into the mental health system over the past 10 years," she said.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns defended Labor's mental health plan, pointing to pledges to substantially boost funding for Kids Helpline, Lifeline and women's health centres.

"Labor has a comprehensive plan when it comes to mental health support in the state," he said.

"We're obviously open to listening to experts about enhancing those programs, but I think the criticism is misplaced."

The alliance is calling for an expert task force within the first year of the new government to conduct an analysis of mental health services across the state.

It also wants new funding and more coherent and connected services to improve access and care.