Crossroads – Rethinking the Australian Mental Health System – 10 March 2014

The ReachOut Foundation in collaboration with EY recently released its second report on mental in Australia, which highlights the need for Australia to urgently change the mental health system to be more efficient and to avoid becoming economically unsustainable. The report recommends that the mental health system needs to move towards a stepped care framework that provides a range of help options that in addition to the role that clinicians undertake a strong focus on scalable self-help and peer-support interventions.

• One in two Australians will experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime, and one in five or 3.2 million in any given year
• Only 35% of the 3.2 million people get access to mental health services
• One quarter of those who did access services felt their needs weren’t met
• In 2013 a combined workforce of 36,300 GPs, Psychiatrists and Psychologists provided 14.3 million mental health related services
• The increase in demand for and use of services will increase between 135% to 160% over the next fifteen years
• If the mental health system remains unchanged the existing services will not meet the demands requiring an additional 4,500 GPs, 2,150 Psychiatrists, 2,150 Clinical Psychologists by 2027

The report concludes that our existing mental health system will never meet the demand and the investment required to ensure the system is adequate is unlikely to materialise. However what Australia now has is an opportunity to create a system that can deliver the right support at the right time to whoever may need it through a 21st century model that expands access, increases flexibility and improves outcomes. To do this a system of stepped care is advisable where access help does not require physical contact and where support and assessment can be provided by peer workers and the establishment of more self-help and peer-support that diverts the demand on clinical services and professionals so they can concentrate on those with greatest need.

From Sad Mum Happy Mum….The magnitude that this report details is certainly not new to us, the patients, we experience the lack of services, lengthy delays and red tape on a regular basis. The issues we faced show a clear imbalance between demand and availability. These issues are heightened for those that have not got private health insurance nor have sufficient income to afford private care. These disparities between the public and private mental health systems are alarming and from my experience this is not just in what services are available to a private patient but also in the attitudes, level of care, follow up care and treatment of patients at high risk and requiring immediate care. While there is a particular focus on some segments of the population to assist people with a mental illness, there are other elements of the population whose circumstances are not considered and are therefore left to fit into a system either not designed for them or which does not understand their needs and impacts.

While not all the issues I explain are discussed in the Crossroads report what is of greatest concern for patients with a mental illness is knowing that in the future our mental health, our care and our services will be harder to achieve and access leaving us at higher risk and more vulnerable to the impact of our illnesses.

No health system, in particular a mental health system is perfect, there will always be disparities, a lack of services and professionals to assist those with a mental illness but for a system, as detailed within the Crossroads report, to get so far behind demand, and will only get worse over the next fifteen years is unacceptable and it is clear that the government at all levels is letting down those living with or caring for someone with a mental illness.

The full report by ReachOut can be accessed here


3 thoughts on “Crossroads – Rethinking the Australian Mental Health System – 10 March 2014

  1. It is really helpful for us in the U.S. to know we are not alone in terms of horrifying gaps in the system of treatment for people with mental illness. I could write a whole blog on that issue alone. Thank you for raising awareness!

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