Victoria's mental health system has collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of desperately ill people to fall between the cracks, leading psychiatrist Patrick McGorry says.
Too unwell for a GP, about 300,000 Victorians are left with little option but to wait until they end up in an emergency ward, which often turns them away.
Half of all young people will experience mental illness before the age of 30, but there is virtually no help available once they get too old for youth services, Prof McGorry told Victoria's royal commission into the state's mental health system on Friday.
"It's lethal," he said of the current framework.
"People have died because of this."
Amelia Morris, 21, nearly became a statistic as she struggled to get help for anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder while living in regional Victoria.
She had gone to youth mental health support service, Headspace, but that wasn't enough and subsidies for her psychology sessions were running out.
"I just wasn't getting any better ... and then one day I came home from school and attempted suicide," Ms Morris said.
"I ended up calling the ambulance myself because I saw my dog and thought 'What are you going to do without me?'."
Ms Morris is demanding better mental health care so other young people don't have to go through what she did.
"My mum's a diabetic and they wouldn't make her wait until her foot was gangrenous before they did something," she said.
"I've really had to fight very hard to get the help I've just needed to survive."
Adult community mental health services have "imploded" and the whole system is in a state of collapse, Prof McGorry said.
Making sure a patient isn't acutely unwell and "bothering the emergency department, that's essentially a good outcome as far as our mental health system in Victoria is at the moment".
The system needs a complete overhaul, Prof McGorry added, pointing to a solution along the lines of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
"What they (politicians) haven't understood is the amount of investment and reform that's really needed."
"This is like another NDIS except probably even more significant. This affects a lot more people than the NDIS."
The royal commission continues on Monday.
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Australian Associated Press