Get The Facts

Mental Illness effects every Australian family.

What is the Need for Mental Health Services?

Mental illness and associated drug and alcohol misuse impacts on all Australians. No family, workplace or community is unaffected. To achieve good outcomes in planning a mental health service, the primary goal is to understand the needs of people with mental illnesses, the needs of those who care for them, and the community at large. A population health framework takes in to account the complex factors that affect health and illness across the life-span and within diverse population groups.

Those affected by mental illness need the following:

  • good clinical care that ameliorates symptoms and reduces disability
  • quick and easy access to services when and where needed
  • education about mental illness and mental health
  • the reduction of discrimination and stigma
  • the involvement of consumers’ and carers’ personal resourcefulness in bringing about recovery
  • a comprehensive coordinated range of psycho-social assistance and support encompassing interpersonal relationships, income, housing, education, employment, transport, and leisure opportunities

The prevalence and incidence of mental illness in Australia

  • Mental illness is common: One in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives.
  • More than 600,000 Australians, ie 3% of the population at any one time suffers a severe level of mental illness.
  • Young adults between 18 and 24 have the highest prevalence of mental illness. It is estimated that 27% of young adults will develop a mental disorder.
  • Co-morbidity is common among persons with mental illness. One in four persons with an anxiety, affective or substance use disorder also have at least one other mental illness. Among those with psychotic disorders, 30% have a medical history of alcohol abuse or dependence, 25.1% of cannabis abuse and 13.2% of other substance abuse or dependence.
  • In 2000, depression was ranked as the fourth most common cause of Australia’s total disease burden and was the most common cause of disability.
  • 40% of people with a mental disorder report receiving treatment. This means the majority (60%) do not.
  • There were 2,101 deaths from suicide recorded in 2005.

The above figures were drawn from:

  • Andrews G. Tolkein II, 2008
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics: National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 1997
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 3309.0 2005
  • Australia’s Health 2006
  • Jablensky et al, People Living with Psychotic Illness

Mental illness is common, most people have more than one disorder and most do not receive adequate treatment.

The human cost of mental illness

The human cost and impact of mental illness on people who experience it, their families and carers, is enormous. The consequences frequently involve financial, social, psychological and physical hardships. People with mental illness may become socially isolated, experience discrimination and unemployment. In addition to the pain and loss the illness itself causes, the human cost is often compounded by difficulties in accessing services and inadequate or inefficient service delivery and treatment.

Families and carers of people with mental illness also face considerable demands in terms of increased stress, chronic emotional and physical exhaustion and isolation. Too often carers are sidelined in their attempts to provide or receive information regarding the person they care for and do not receive any community support. It is estimated that everyone who has a severe mental illness affects the lives of 10 others.

Service systems that promote early detection and early intervention would greatly reduce both the human and financial costs of mental illness. Early detection and intervention prevent symptoms from developing into more serious conditions and provide the individual with the best opportunity to continue participating in a productive life, which helps to significantly reduce the impact of mental illness. Many illnesses develop in adolescence or young adulthood, significantly interfering with completion of education and workforce participation.

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