General News — 10 October 2012

At least 100,000 of 600,000 people who suffer from serious mental illness in Australia are missing out on essential services, according to the national network for mental health providers.

Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia executive director David Meldrum said that fewer than 50 per cent of people with serious mental illness were receiving treatment.

The claims come as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that $6.3 billion, or $287 per Australian, was spent on mental health related services in 2009-10.

In its report, Mental health services: in brief 2012, the AIHW said spending on mental health related services increased by an average of 4.5 per cent per year per Australian between 2005-06 and 2009-10, funded by state and territory governments, the federal government and private health insurance.

It said about 1.7 million Australians (8 per cent of the population) received public or private mental health services in 2009-10, generally receiving multiple services.

There were about 13.9 million mental health related GP visits in 2010-11, commonly for depression, anxiety or sleep disturbance.

More than six million community mental health care contacts took place with 339,000 Australians and about 31.1 million prescriptions for mental health related medications were dispensed in 2010-11.

Mr Meldrum said a large part of the problem was that people in crisis, and confronting illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, or anxiety disorders, often did not know where to go to get help and sometimes it took people years to find the services they needed.

This also resulted in “a big ripple effect of distress” affecting thousands of carers.

MIFA will today launch a free help service called MiNetworks, supported by SANE Australia and Aftercare, to refer people to services, beginning with 80 locations nationally with 40 more to follow.

Mr Meldrum said people with mental illness were economically and socially marginalised and lived up to 25 years less than the national average.

He said productivity losses linked to joblessness among people with a mental illness had climbed to $10bn annually.


As first appeared in The Australian, 10 October 2012


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