Politics — 16 August 2012

An unlikely alliance between economists and mental health practitioners could  be the key to improving youth mental illness in Australia, according to a  leading expert.

Former Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry says Australia could  save up to $10 billion annually by implementing an effective mental health  policy.

Professor McGorry is appealing to Treasury with the potential cost savings of  his early intervention approach to mental health care in young people.

”It costs about a third as much to treat patients in these more specialised  streamed models of care with early intervention than it does if you just wait  for them to become very severely ill and disabled and treated in traditional  mental health care”.

”These are big numbers”, he said. ”If you include lost productivity in the  workforce and those sort of things it’s up to $30 billion [annually].”

Professor McGorry is professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of  Melbourne, Headspace founder and a keynote speaker at Canberra Health’s annual  research meeting, which is being held this week at Canberra Hospital.

Professor McGorry has attracted criticism for his method of early  intervention for young people with mental illness, but rejects those who believe  he is over-medicalising the regular ups and downs of adolescence.

”Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal,” he said. ”It doesn’t  mean they don’t deserve help of some sort.”

He hopes highlighting the financial benefits of improving youth mental health  services will motivate policy makers to change the current system. ”It’s not  just the cost of services, it’s things like better recovery rates, in terms of  social and vocational recovery, less suicide and less homicide.”

And this week’s conference looks set to provide some answers. ”It’s  important not to overtreat or undertreat, and the only way to know what the  right balance is, the proportion of treatment to offer, is through really  careful research.”

As first appeared in Canberra Times

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/mcgorrys-mix-mental-health-economics-20120814-2474f.html#ixzz23fb87Bov

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