A new report is calling for a major re-think of Australia’s mental health system, which it says is not meeting demand.
The Crossroads report was prepared by Ernst and Young and the ReachOut online youth mental health service for the Inspire Foundation.
It found nearly one in two adult Australians have experienced mental illness, but less than half have received the help they need.
But ReachOut’s chief executive Jonathan Nicholas says in a fiscally-restrained environment, governments need to look to alternative approaches.
He says they should consider an approach that emphasises self-help and focuses on the young.
He acknowledges that some people are best treated in a clinical setting, but says a “lot of people can actually help themselves”.
“They can go through programs, read information, access peer support environments and their mental health difficulties actually improved,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
“If we can intervene early, or even better prevent the emergence of some of those mental health difficulties, obviously we can help people have happier healthier lives.
“But we can also take some of the strain off the clinical system and free up those valuable resources such as GPs and psychologists and psychiatrists, to help those in most persistent need.”
He says policymakers are “very receptive” towards ideas on how to improve mental health services.
“We have to start having a difficult conversation in Australia about not only the problems in mental health, but the innovative solutions,” he said.
“The work of the National Mental Health Commission in this regard is calling for a doubling of the proportion of people that get access to help.
“It’s really a challenge to us in the community and government to say ‘how can we do that in a fiscally-constrained environment?’
“If we’re not able to spend the extra $9 billion and employ 800,000 clinicians, what is it that we can do to achieve the same solution at a lower cost?”
This article first appeared on ABC News on 11 March, 2014.