Why hasn’t the mental health of Australians improved?

Posted on September 6, 2013

There are basically two ways of decreasing the number of people with mental disorders in the population. One is to reduce the number developing mental disorders (prevention) and the other is to shorten the length of time people have a disorder once it has developed. (flickr)

Despite two decades of investment in improving mental health services, the mental health of Australians has not improved. This may be because haven’t been spending money on the right approach and need to place greater emphasis on prevention.

In 1997, Australia had its first National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. The survey showed that mental disorders were common, and that many people who were affected did not seek or get professional help.

There are treatments for mental disorders that are known to work and many people are not getting them. If we could get more of them into treatment, then the mental health of the population should improve.

From 1992 to 2004, real spending on mental health services by the Commonwealth increased by 149% and spending by the states and territories increased by 67%. Prescriptions per capita for antidepressants also increased dramatically, as did the number of psychological services funded by Medicare.

There are several possibilities for why we haven’t seen any gains. Perhaps there’s been progress, but the steps forward have been too small to detect in our surveys.

Or progress may have been counteracted by other forces such as the global financial crisis, or natural disasters such as the drought – both of which could increase the risk for some types of mental health problems.

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Category(s):Adult psychological development

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