” Many Australians experience difficulties with their mental health. Mental illness is the single largest contributor to years lived in ill-health and is the third largest contributor (after cancer and cardiovascular conditions) to a reduction in the total years of healthy life for Australians (AIHW 2016).
Almost half of all Australian adults have met the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety, mood or substance use disorder at some point in their lives, and around 20% will meet the criteria in a given year (ABS 2008). This is similar to the average experience of developed countries (OECD 2012, 2014).”
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“Clearly Australia’s mental health system is failing Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal communities devastated by high rates of suicide and poorer mental health outcomes. Poor mental health in Aboriginal communities often stems from historic dispossession, racism and a poor sense of connection to self and community.
It is compounded by people’s lack of access to meaningful and ongoing education and employment. Drug and alcohol related conditions are also commonly identified in persons with poor mental health.
NACCHO Chairperson, Matthew Cooke 2015 Read in full Here
Read over 200 Aboriginal Mental Health Suicide Prevention articles published by NACCHO over the past 7 years
Despite a plethora of past reviews and inquiries into mental health in Australia, and positive reforms in services and their delivery, many people are still not getting the support they need to maintain good mental health or recover from episodes of mental ill‑health. Mental health in Australia is characterised by:
- more than 3 100 deaths from suicide in 2017, an average of almost 9 deaths per day, and a suicide rate for Indigenous Australians that is much higher than for other Australians (ABS 2018)
- for those living with a mental illness, lower average life expectancy than the general population with significant comorbidity issues — most early deaths of psychiatric patients are due to physical health conditions
- gaps in services and supports for particular demographic groups, such as youth, elderly people in aged care facilities, Indigenous Australians, individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds, and carers of people with a mental illness
- a lack of continuity in care across services and for those with episodic conditions who may need services and supports on an irregular or non-continuous basis
- a variety of programs and supports that have been successfully trialled or undertaken for small populations but have been discontinued or proved difficult to scale up for broader benefits
- significant stigma and discrimination around mental ill-health, particularly compared with physical illness.
The Productivity Commission has been asked to undertake an inquiry into the role of mental health in supporting social and economic participation, and enhancing productivity and economic growth (these terms are defined, for the purpose of this inquiry, in box 1).
By examining mental health from a participation and contribution perspective, this inquiry will essentially be asking how people can be enabled to reach their potential in life, have purpose and meaning, and contribute to the lives of others. That is good for individuals and for the whole community.
In 2014-15, four million Australians reported having experienced a common mental disorder.
Mental health is a key driver of economic participation and productivity in Australia, and hence has the potential to impact incomes and living standards and social engagement and connectedness. Improved population mental health could also help to reduce costs to the economy over the long term.
Australian governments devote significant resources to promoting the best possible mental health and wellbeing outcomes. This includes the delivery of acute, recovery and rehabilitation health services, trauma informed care, preventative and early intervention programs, funding non-government organisations and privately delivered services, and providing income support, education, employment, housing and justice. It is important that policy settings are sustainable, efficient and effective in achieving their goals.
Employers, not-for-profit organisations and carers also play key roles in the mental health of Australians. Many businesses are developing initiatives to support and maintain positive mental health outcomes for their employees as well as helping employees with mental illhealth continue to participate in, or return to, work.
Scope of the inquiry
The Commission should consider the role of mental health in supporting economic participation, enhancing productivity and economic growth. It should make recommendations, as necessary, to improve population mental health, so as to realise economic and social participation and productivity benefits over the long term.
Without limiting related matters on which the Commission may report, the Commission should:
- examine the effect of supporting mental health on economic and social participation, productivity and the Australian economy;
- examine how sectors beyond health, including education, employment, social services, housing and justice, can contribute to improving mental health and economic participation and productivity;
- examine the effectiveness of current programs and Initiatives across all jurisdictions to improve mental health, suicide prevention and participation, including by governments, employers and professional groups;
- assess whether the current investment in mental health is delivering value for money and the best outcomes for individuals, their families, society and the economy;
- draw on domestic and international policies and experience, where appropriate; and
- develop a framework to measure and report the outcomes of mental health policies and investment on participation, productivity and economic growth over the long term.
The Commission should have regard to recent and current reviews, including the 2014 Review of National Mental Health Programmes and Services undertaken by the National Mental Health Commission and the Commission’s reviews into disability services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
|The Issues Paper|
|The Commission has released this issues paper to assist individuals and organisations to participate in the inquiry. It contains and outlines:
Participants should not feel that they are restricted to comment only on matters raised in the issues paper. We want to receive information and comment on any issues that participants consider relevant to the inquiry’s terms of reference.
Key inquiry dates
Submissions and brief comments can be lodged
Subscribe for inquiry updates
To receive emails updating you on the inquiry consultations and releases, subscribe to the inquiry at: http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/mentalhealth/subscribe
|Definition of key terms|
|Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental illness or mental disorder is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria.
Mental health problem refers to some combination of diminished cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social abilities, but not to the extent of meeting the criteria for a mental illness/disorder.
Mental ill-health refers to diminished mental health from either a mental illness/disorder or a mental health problem.
Social and economic participation refers to a range of ways in which people contribute to and have the resources, opportunities and capability to learn, work, engage with and have a voice in the community. Social participation can include social engagement, participation in decision making, volunteering, and working with community organisations. Economic participation can include paid employment (including self-employment), training and education.
Productivity measures how much people produce from a given amount of effort and resources. The greater their productivity, the higher their incomes and living standards will tend to be.
Economic growth is an increase in the total value of goods and services produced in an economy. This can be achieved, for example, by raising workforce participation and/or productivity.
|Sources: AIHW (2018b); DOHA (2013); Gordon et al. (2015); PC (2013, 2016, 2017c); SCRGSP (2018); WHO (2001).|
An improvement in an individual’s mental health can provide flow-on benefits in terms of increased social and economic participation, engagement and connectedness, and productivity in employment (figure 1).
This can in turn enhance the wellbeing of the wider community, including through more rewarding relationships for family and friends; a lower burden on informal carers; a greater contribution to society through volunteering and working in community groups; increased output for the community from a more productive workforce; and an associated expansion in national income and living standards. These raise the capacity of the community to invest in interventions to improve mental health, thereby completing a positive reinforcing loop.
The inquiry’s terms of reference (provided at the front of this paper) were developed by the Australian Government in consultation with State and Territory Governments. The terms of reference ask the Commission to make recommendations to improve population mental health so as to realise higher social and economic participation and contribution benefits over the long term.
Assessing the consequences of mental ill-health
The costs of mental ill-health for both individuals and the wider community will be assessed, as well as how these costs could be reduced through changes to the way governments and others deliver programs and supports to facilitate good mental health.
The Commission will consider the types of costs summarised in figure 4. These will be assessed through a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis, drawing on available data and cost estimates, and consultations with inquiry participants and topic experts. We welcome the views of inquiry participants on other costs that we should take into account.