Mental illness is a major social and economic burden for individuals, the health care
system and the nation.
One out of every five Australians will experience some form of mental illness each
year, and three out of every ten people will be seriously affected. At least one third of
young people have had an episode of mental illness by the age of 25 years.
Depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental disorders experienced by
Australians and depression is predicted to be one of the world’s largest health
problems by 2020.
The majority of mental illnesses begin between the ages of 15 and 25 years, and the
2001 National Health Survey estimated that 1.8 million Australians (9.6% of the
population) had a long-term mental or behavioural problem . There are strong links to
drug and alcohol problems, incarceration, unemployment and homelessness.
This growing mental health burden poses a significant threat to our nation’s future
workforce capacity and economic prosperity and there are strong links to drug and
alcohol problems, incarceration, unemployment and homelessness. It is estimated
that the total annual cost of mental illness is approximately $20 billion, which
includes the cost of lost productivity and participation in the workforce and $6.5
billion in government spending on health services.
However while the recent focus has been on the need for health reforms that focus on
prevention and early intervention, facilitate better management of chronic illnesses in
the community so that people do not end up inappropriately in acute care, and provide
transitional care or step-down care for patients discharged from acute care, mental
health seems to be increasingly off the agenda.