More than 900,000 Australians with a mental illness are missing out on the services they need according to the first national report card on mental health.
However, a third of those who get help via a hospital are there against their will and many are subject to physical restraint such as a locked door, straps or belts or sedation, the National Mental Health Commission says.
National Mental Health Commission chair Professor Alan Fels says the poor treatment of people with mental illness could be fixed if they were given help earlier to stop their problem turning into a crisis.
“Some say hospitals are overdoing it,” he said.
“Thirty per cent of people are deemed to need restraint, we need to get them earlier,” he said.
Mental illness is exposed in the report as a killer. A person with a mental illness will live 10 -32 years less than someone from the general population.
This is because mental health medications can make patients obese, those with a mental illness are more likely to have lifestyle risk factors such as smoking and drinking, and many take their own lives.
There are more than two thousand deaths from suicide in Australia each year and over 65,000 suicide attempts.
One of the biggest failings identified with the current mental health system is the fact more than one in eight people discharged from a mental health service are left homeless.
Chair of the National Mental Health Commission Professor Alan Fels says this must be stopped and he says no one should be discharged unless they have a home to go to.
“If that means more people are clogging hospitals it will put pressure on the housing system to rectify that,” he said.
The nation is currently spending $6.3 billion on mental health services but Professor Fels says there is no accountability about the outcomes we’re getting for that spending.
The report says there is not enough data available about whether current mental health treatments and services are working to improve the life of their patients.
Almost half the Australian population will experience a mental illness at some time in their life and around 3.2 million adults a year have a mental health problem.
The report calculates that mental illness is costing the economy $20 billion a year.
More than two out of three people who suffer psychosis are unemployed and the unemployment rate for those with a mental illness is almost double that of the general population.
Professor Fels says doctors treating the mentally ill need to also focus on their physical health problems.
People with a mental illness are 3.5 times more likely to have lost all their teeth, they are three times more likely to have diabetes and half of them have metabolic syndrome that leads to obesity and other health problems.
Key recommendations of the 2012 national report card on mental health:
- Regular, independent surveys of people’s experiences of and access to mental health services.
- More access to timely and appropriate mental health services and support.
- Less use of involuntary practices and steps to eliminate seclusion and restraint.
- Government targets and co-operation to reduce early death and improve the health of people with mental illness.
- Include mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in targets to reduce early deaths and improve wellbeing.
- A national commitment to safety and quality of care for mental health services.
- Investment in families and communities to increase resilience and reduce the need for crisis services.
- Increased levels of participation of people with mental health difficulties in employment.
- Access to stable and safe places to live after discharged from hospitals, care or treatment services.
- Prevention and reduction of suicides, and support for those who attempt suicide.
As first appeared in the Herald Sun, 27 November 2012
For more information on the Mental Health Report Card view details here – http://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/our-report-card.aspx