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Under pressure: Australia’s mental health emergency

Health services planning Mental health Psychology Employee mental health Australia

The mental health crisis in Australia is undeniable. According to pre-pandemic figures, almost one in five Australians experience mental illness each year, and almost 50 per cent of Australians experience mental illness during their lifetime. Many don’t receive the treatment or support that they require. Accessing help can be difficult because of the availability of mental health professionals and the prohibitive costs. Not only that, the complete impact of the pandemic on mental health has yet to be fully understood, but the early indicators are worrying.

The drivers of mental ill-health are increasing, as is demand for services, but unless something is done to lower costs and increase the professional health services workforce, the gap between demand for mental health services and supply of those services will continue to grow.

Report overview:

  • Part 1 of this report explores the worsening mental health of Australians in more detail. This can be difficult to measure, so we look at psychological distress, workers’ compensation claims for mental health-related issues, and rising suicidality and self-harm trends as indicators of the worsening mental health of Australians.
  • Part 2 focuses on some of the external drivers of mental ill-health, including climate change and extreme weather events, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the cost of living crisis.
  • Part 3 of the report looks at the barriers to mental healthcare, finding that the shortage of available psychologists in Australia is particularly acute. As demand increases, there is more strain on the workforce, and many psychologists have either had to institute waiting lists or have closed their books to new patients entirely.
  • Part 4 explores several recommendations that would help improve access to mental healthcare services over the short run and which can guide longer-term reform.
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