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SWSP1043 Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Among Youths in Australia Assessment 2 Answer


SWSP1043: Government, Public Policy and Civil Society

Discipline of Social Work

Document Name
Unit Outline SWSP1043 Government, Public Policy and Civil Society

Assessment Overview

The assessment in this Unit has TWO components and ONE Hurdle Task as listed below:

Assessment Detail

Assessment 1

Assessment Type
Political policy review

Aligned Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the political process and ideologies that underpin the political process in Australia.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the structures, processes and relationships that lie behind the public face of government in Australia.
  3. Describe the complex set of relationships and a range of players and their competing interests in the socio-political, cultural and economic discourses of the times.
3,000 words

Assessment 1 Details and Instructions

The purpose of this assessment is for students to critically analyse different policy positions held by political parties in Australia on a key social issue to demonstrate an understanding of how different ideologies underpin these policy positions.

Assessment Details

Each student is to choose a policy or social issue that featured in state or federal election in the past 5 years. These could include:

  • Asylum Seekers
  • Aged Care
  • Child Protection
  • Climate change
  • Closing the gap
  • Disability
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Gambling
  • Housing and Homelessness
  • Mental Health

Students are to select an issue and review the policy positions from two different political parties and at least one advocacy organisation. The students will use evidence gathered from political party policies or statements, examples of advocacy organisation campaign materials and academic literature. The following framework will be used to complete the text analysis:

  1. Provide a brief overview of the current context of the issue.
  2. Identify and describe how the chosen issue is presented by two political parties.
  3. Identify and critique the underlying ideology of each party’s policy stance.
  4. Analyse the degree to which the proposed policy positions comply with Human Rights conventions and the Australian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.
  5. Include examples and reasons behind advocacy organisations’ agreement or disagreement with the political parties’ approaches.
  6. Discuss how the policy information presented in the political documents might impact on your practice as a social worker.
  7. Ensure you use at least ten references and your arguments are well structured and expressed in a fluent manner.
  8. Correct citation of documents using APA (6th edition) referencing style.

Assessment 1 Criteria

  1. Demonstrates ability to understand and analyse the information presented in political documents. (10%)
  2. Demonstrates ability to critique key political-policy documents and explain political ideology. (10%)
  3. Demonstrates ability to compare policy initiatives with human rights conventions and ethics. (10%)
  4. Describes implications of analysed information for practice as a social worker (10%)
  5. Clarity of expression with attention to expression, grammar, punctuation and spelling. At least 10 references cited (10%)

How to do well in Assessment 1

Attend all sessions and complete the set readings

  • Active participation in class discussions
  • Use a range of academic journal articles/book chapters and policy documents 

Assessment 2: Policy debate in civil society

Assessment Type

Aligned Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the political process and ideologies that underpin the political process in Australia.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the structures, processes and relationships that lie “behind” the public face of government in Australia.
  3. Describe the complex set of relationships and a range of players and their competing interests in the socio-political, cultural and economic discourses of the times.
  4. Articulate what a civil society looks like and how stable this definition is.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of such concepts as; civil society, public good, power, elites, wealth, inequality, discourse, justice and democracy are explain how they are produced and to what effect.
  6. Describe how the interconnectedness and interdependence with global societies, politics and cultures are producing a ‘global world’ and a ‘global citizen’.
3,000 words

Assessment 2 Details and Instructions

You are to write a report comparing two different policy approaches to a contemporary social issue. Format suggestions are provided in the Report Scaffold located in the online class space.

Examples of policy approaches to consider:

  • Harm minimisation versus abstinence in drug policy
  • Compulsory income management versus spending autonomy for welfare recipients
  • Restorative justice versus incarceration
  • Adoption versus intensive family support programs
  • Public versus private (including NGO) human services delivery
  • Medical cannabis prescription versus prohibition
  • ‘Housing first’ versus the ‘continuum of care’ approach to reducing homelessness

If you have another social issue and policy approach you wish to examine that is not on this list you must consult with your teacher first.

The report should include:

  • A brief overview of the social problem.
  • Some examples of how this approach has been described and framed in Australian media discussions.
  • For each side of the debate (policy approach) provide:
    • A broad overview of the policy approach, the key theory of government and the social values or philosophies that underpin the approach.
    • An assessment of the evidence for the effectiveness of the policy, including information from formal evaluations if available
    • A critique of the human rights implications of this policy approach and whether the policy or elements of the policy could be considered oppressive.
    • In what circumstances could this policy approach be considered an appropriate response to an issue.
    • In what circumstances could this policy approach be an inappropriate response to an issue.
  • Consider each policy approach and describe which approach you broadly consider to be the most helpful in addressing the key social issue. Discuss how you would advocate for this including how you would balance the competing claims offered in the other approach. Support your position with reference to human rights legislation and/or the AASW code of ethics.
  • Outline at least two strategies you could use to advance your claim.

Assessment 2 Criteria

  1. Relevance of answer to topic.
  2. Key issue being examined is outlined including information on population groups and government departments that address this.
  3. Assertions are supported with relevant academic sources, government reports, and other relevant references.
  4. Policy positions are reported and analysed.
  5. Position taken is argued for logically and consistently.
  6. Critical reflection as to how human rights are addressed in these policy positions and whether position is oppressive.
  7. Main ideas are clearly and logically presented.
  8. Each element of the report has been addressed.
  9. Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation used throughout.
  10. Referencing using APA (6th edition) conventions.
  11. Word count is within + or -10% of requirement.

How to do well in Assessment 2

  • Attend all sessions and complete the set readings
  • Active participation in class discussions
  • Use a range of academic resources including books and journal articles
  • Use a minimum of ten academic references


Mental illness and substance abuse among youths in Australia

1. Introduction

Mental illness is one of the major concerns for the policymakers in Australia due to the decisiveness of the problems and the challenges which are faced by the people. In addition to it, substance abuse is also a primary issue pertinent among the youths of the country. According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2020a), there are more than 4.3 million people in Australia who have received prescriptions for mental illness, and more than $ 9.9 billion was spent for mental illness in the country in 2017-18. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2020b) have also stated that more than 9 million population of the country which accounts for about 43% of the Australians above the age of 14 have used drugs while 3.4 million of them have used drugs in the last 12 months. This project would investigate and analyse the policy formation in the country from two different perspectives so that the best of them can be chosen for application. 

2. Overview of the social problem

The youth population of Australia are largely affected by mental illness, and the abusive use of drugs and substances plays a destructive role in that as well. At the same time, the notion of mental illness depends on societal perceptions rather than being accorded as the property of the individual (Forbes, Jenkins & Myers, 2019). This causes problems in dealing with mental health issues in Australia. Due to the widespread use of drugs and substance abuse in the youths of the country, definitive drug policy requires to be formed which is capable of integrating social participation as well as impact various treatment procedures for mitigation of mental health issues among them. According to Guy et al. (2016), due to the rising availability of drugs and freedom of the youth, substance abuse has been steadily rising all over the country. The drug and substance abuse is also responsible for risking the mental illness of a larger section of the country's youth. Therefore, interventions from the Government to form effective policies to mitigate such issues in the society and make mental illness and substance abuse more inclusive by the perceptive handling of the problems is called for. These policies are aimed to reduce the burden of social understanding and help people better treat themselves and improve society as a whole.  

3. Description and framing of the approaches in Australian media

The newspaper and media channel has not been sensitive towards the issues and the problems faced by the mentally ill people or the patients of substance. According to Chalmers, Lancaster & Hughes (2016), the sensationalism and legal angle which is generally targeted by the media for coverage and consumption is very degrading for the treatment and the policy formation of the drug policies in Australia. While the approaches of the discussions are largely dominated with mental health or drug abuse topics, the light in which it is discussed is often damaging for the people and the youths of the country. The problems of drug abuse are painted in criminal justice activities. For example, a report in the Abc (2020) suggests that more than 40 % of the disability is accounted for by depression or mental health illness. It is also largely affected by the use of drugs. However, the newspapers and the media are not promoting the policy formation of the mental illness or the drug abuse among the youth of the country which is causing more damage for the people who are actually suffering from the issues. The moral panic is the dilemma which is preventing the crisis from being declared in the country. The media reports are also able to influence the attitudes of the youths towards drugs and mental illness and shape the perceptions of the society which can be an effective tool for the handling of the issues in the country.  

3.1 Policy 1: Harm minimisation versus abstinence in drug policy 

3.1.1 Overview of the policy approach

The most pertinent approaches for the formation of the policy in terms of drug use is harm minimisation and abstinence. While harm minimisation is aimed for the reducing the harmful effects of the drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, amphetamine and others on the individual and the society, the abstinence is aimed towards the restrictive actions of the policy to ban or prohibit the use of such substances in the society. The harm minimisation approach is based on the idea that the use of drugs is an integral component of society ranging from dependent use to occasional experimentation which has varied harmful impacts. Pettigrew et al. (2017) opined that the abstinence, however, causes opposite effects that are intended through the formation of the policy and causes more damage and suppression of the effects such as mental illness, depression, addiction or others which have far-reaching social impacts. The harm minimisation approach is also dependent upon the Zinberg's interaction model of drug use (Farrugia & Fraser, 2017). This theory dictates that the use of drugs and the experience is a combined effect of the drug, individual and the environment and hence abstinence cannot be the effective policy approaches for the formation of the drug policy in the country as it handles only one of the prospective factors of drug and substance abuse in the Australian youths. 

3.1.2 Evidence for the effectiveness of the policy

According to Unodc (2020), the application of the harm minimisation policy approaches for the population of Australia has been largely effective for the prevention and the mitigation of the drug-related issues in the population. It also states that the effectiveness of the minimisation approach has also enabled the country to avoid mass IDU related epidemics such as AIDS/HIV. On the other hand, Groves (2018) also informed that The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) inducted drug experts to impact the pricing, supply and the quality of the drugs in the country has been effective for the mitigation of the drug or substance abuse in the youths of the country. The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) (2020) expressed that the harm minimisation has been able to prevent more than 32000 new HIV cases as well as 97000 Hepatitis C cases over the span of 20 years of its use. The economic effectiveness is also noted in the fact that there have been cost savings of more than $ 4 for every dollar spent in health care (The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), 2020). 

3.1.3 A critique of the human rights implications of this policy

The harm reduction approaches for the minimisation of the detrimental impacts of drug abuse in Australia can be considered legally and ethically safe for the people. The human rights implications are also minimal as the intentional flow of the drugs in the society are reduced with the aim of controlling the overall drug use in the society by diluting the quality and availability of the drugs.  However, Sullivan (2019) opined that the stigma of the society and the treatment of the drug users and consequential health impacts are often seen with a queer eye. This pervades the commitment of the country or the protection of justice, equality and almost all the other fundamental rights of the people. This mixed response to the policy approach calls for a more compassionate approach to be undertaken. The abstinence or the drug minimisation policy are both in violation of the fundamental rights of the people to some degree which should be handled carefully. 

3.1.4 Appropriateness of the policy approach 

According to Hawk et al. (2017), harm minimisation is focused in the reduction of supply of purer forms of the drug and introducing new and clean needles, supervision of the sites, workshops and others. Therefore, the most appropriate circumstances in which the application of the harm minimisation is best suited is the case for the preventive measures of associated drug use and its consequences such as HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis and others like risky behaviour. The abstinence, however, is effective in the case of an addiction as the dependency can be controlled and smoothed over by practising abstinence among the people of the country. Meyerson et al. (2020) are also of the idea that the harm minimisation and abstinence act well when the participation of the users (people of Australia) are gained for adopting safer means of using drugs. Therefore, this policy approach can be a response for safer use of drugs but not a prohibition of it. 

3.1.5 Inappropriate response to an issue

The policy approach of abstinence and harm minimisation would not work in the case of prohibitive approaches as the criminalisation of the users in the country tends to have little effect for reducing harm in regards to drug abuse. Vakharia& Little (2017) expressed that needle exchange programs and naloxone injection for the prevention of overdose do not alleviate the issues of drug use. However, this policy would not work if the people are not willing to participate in the program and the intentions of availability and inclusion of the society is a greater incentive for the users to look up to. The policy approach, therefore, is not a perfect response in situations when the isolation, oversight and tracking of the users are not effectively done by the government.  

3.2 Policy approach 2: Medical cannabis prescription versus prohibition

3.2.1 A broad overview of the policy approach

According to Aph (2020), cannabis is the fastest-growing illicit drug used by the people of Australia in recent decades. According to Pharmout (2020), 95 % of the cannabis users in the country obtain use marijuana illegally, and there is a steep rise in the prescriptions for the use of marijuana as a medical alternative amounting to 3100 prescriptions in early 2019. The policy approaches which are adopted for the cannabis policymaking are primarily prohibitive in nature with criminal punishments as well. The key theory of the government of the country is to include prohibitionism as the main approach for the formation of the policies of cannabis use which is not efficient as legal implications aside, the impacts of the use of cannabis is not as harmful. However, Christian (2016) also stated that prescription medical use of marijuana also provides benefits and enables the government to control the circulation of cannabis in the country. The basis of the formation of the policy should consider the shifting landscape of cannabis so that an effective regulatory framework can be enforced through the formation of the policies in Australia. There is a huge gap between the sentiments of the people and the policies that are formed in the country which is not based in reality. The social implications of the policies help for stricter legal laws to be implemented for the prevention of drug-induced activities or hallucinations that have a serious effect on the self-control of the user. Hence, there is a need for the policy of the government to analyse the benefits of prohibitionism and prescription for making the policy.

3.2.2 Evidence for the effectiveness of the policy

The medicinal properties of cannabis use have been largely supported by the people of Australia. However, the prohibitionism of cannabis has not been successful as the continued use of illegal means for procuring and using cannabis has been growing over the years. It is also the result of disproportionate legal implications which reduce the effectiveness of the policy. According to Lancaster, Seear& Ritter (2017), the decriminalisation of the cannabis law is helpful for the removal of the stigma and provision for getting any sort of medical or psychiatric help which might be needed by the user. This means that the application of the prescription approach would be the most effective rather than prohibition. Shanahan, M., Hughes & McSweeney (2016) have also stated that the prescription of the medicinal cannabis has also resulted in the applicative benefits of the regulatory requirement and cost-effectiveness. The removal of the stigma is one of the primary benefits of prescription cannabis in addition to the medicinal values for the treatment of cancer, depression or others. It is clearly noted in the changing perceptions of society as well.  

3.2.3 A critique of the human rights implications of this policy

The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes through the prescribed drug is deemed legal in Australia. However, the human rights implications pertain to the discrimination on the basis of the disabilities or discriminatory treatment. According to Ohrc (2020), there are legal implications as generally applied for the use of any other drugs and influence such as DUI or others. However, the regulatory requirement for the production and prescription of medicinal cannabis in the country has been so much strict that the application of the human rights violation is minute. The objective intentions of the policies to be formed on the basis of the controlled dissemination of medicinal cannabis do not oppress any human rights. The distribution and the availability of cannabis for medical reasons should also be regulated in terms of the equality and prohibition of the use should be done away with.  

3.2.4 Appropriateness of the policy approach 

The policy approach for the use of prescription for the medicinal use of cannabis would result in the controlled use of the substance. Lintzeris et al. (2018) expressed that the use of the medical cannabis should be done in the case of impactful areas such as for the reduction of pain in cancer patients, sclerosis or other ailments. The legal policies should also regulate the availability and accessibility to medicinal cannabis, just like other drugs. Therefore, the policy is applicable in the case where recreational or medicinal benefits are accrued to the patient through the prescribed and controlled use of cannabis for improving the quality of life for the patients. For example, the prescription policy approach is beneficial for cancer patients, and if prohibitionism is adopted, it will result in the illegal and illicit collection and use of cannabis. Hence, the prescription can be a proportionate response for utilisation of cannabis in Australia. 

3.2.5 Inappropriate response to an issue

There are several loopholes for the approach as the inclusion of the cannabis prescriptions is beside the fact of illegal consumption of cannabis. This policy approach is also not applicable for being applied in the case when the framework of licensing, production and distribution has not been applied properly. According to Bone & Seddon (2016), the pleasure properties are often seen as the circumstance when the application of the policy approach is not an appropriate response. Although the issues of the people of the country should always be included in the formation of the policy, the cannabis has hallucinogenic properties which are redundant in the case of policy application of medicinal cannabis. Therefore, the restriction for carrying large amounts of cannabis for commercial reasons have been prohibited by law. 

4. Best policy approach

The discussion has provided several perspectives for the formation of the policies regarding medicinal cannabis use or the drug use in Australia. It is believed that the prescription application for controlling the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes seems to the most effective policy approach. Due to the plethora of benefits such as control and oversight, it is possible for the government to include prescription issuing for the use of cannabis (O'Brien, 2019). The key social issue for the legalisation and handling of the mental health of the youths in the country is also treated with the help of cannabis due to its medicinal properties. On the other hand, the prescription would also help in the prevention of the abuse of the drug by the people of the country. Hence, this approach is the best policy approaches for the prevention or mitigation of mental illness in the youths of the country as well as stop drug abuse through concerted legalisation of limited use and controlled oversight. Patil & Ennis (2018) expressed that the AASW code of ethics provides guidelines for the prevention of mental illness and drug abuse in Australia. It enables the workers to follow a prescribed recommendation from the doctors for the administration of cannabis as a legal alternative for the treatment benefits to the people. In addition to it, the AASW code of ethics also provisions for the improvement of the quality of life of the society, and the medical prescription is relevant for the de-stigmatisation of marijuana use. The medical cannabis use also has minimal human rights implications as the legal structure of the country has legalised medicinal marijuana for cancer treatment, depression or anxiety treatment and other alternatives to be used. 

5. Two strategies for advancing the claim

The two strategies are:

  • Medicinal cannabis has minimal side effects on the health of the person. This is one of the primary reason due to which the provisions for the use of cannabis for medical purposes are recommended. The policy formation also has very less human rights violation and is subjected to the framework for the oversight and exertion of control for regulating the market. The strategy would include a detailed structure for the licensing and limitation on the amount of medicinal cannabis consumption per person in a specified period of time so that it does not turn to addiction for the people of the country.  
  • Screening and regular research are required to attest for the improvements for the use of cannabis for different medical purposes. This would help for alignment with the developmental stages and prevention of recreational intentions of the users. On the other hand, it would also check and explore the intentions of liberty and independence for the people of the country which deems the use of cannabis for medical purposes potent alternate options that can be explored by people of the society. This strategy can be used for advancing the legalisation of cannabis use all over the country and the world. 

6. Conclusion

The above discussion shows that there are multiple approaches to the development of the policies regarding the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse in Australia. While the harm minimisation is an appropriate approach for the formation of the policy development for treating mental illness in the youths of the country, it is believed that prescription cannabis use has more potent advantages. They include no legal and human rights violations, controlled supply and oversight for the people using cannabis as well as the production and distribution channel to be explicitly controlled by the Government of Australia. Therefore, the prescription approach for the medicinal application of cannabis for the treatment of mental illness and drug abuse in the country can be effectively formed with prior information being included for making the decisions of the policy in Australia and its youths. 

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