WE’RE becoming a little too used to seeing our leaders, athletes and politicians come out of the closet about mental illness, and a little too thin on action to address the problem.
A staggering 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness in our lifetime.
Sharing promotes awareness and acceptance of mental disorders – but now we need primary go-to strategies to address the root causes.
Mental health costs Australia more than $12 billion each year. The suicide toll rose higher than the road toll long ago, ranking mental illness as the greatest cause of disability in the world.
Moderate depression alone ranks at the same level of disability as relapsing multiple sclerosis, or chronic hepatitis B, according to World Health Organisation and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates.
As a practicing psychologist for more than 20 years, I created Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-in to identify where we're missing the mark.
Using a combination of traditional subjective assessment with wearable biometric technology to capture objective markers (circadian heart rhythms, sleep cycles, etc), we found more than a third of participants were affected by a mental illness – yet only 5 per cent were seeking care.
Fantastic organisations such as beyondblue have ensured awareness has never been higher, but with only 47 per cent of Australians comfortable disclosing a mental health condition to their manager, the value of workplace Employee Assistance Programs is getting lost.
It’s time to redefine how we improve mental health of all Australians, reduce costs to employers and the economy – and, more importantly, make everyday life easier for the five million Australians who are suffering.
It's time for better insight, diagnosis and treatment – not just upping counsellors, hospital beds and prescription rates.
Australians are spending an average of $360 per person on mental health services every year, with more than 10 per cent of PBS subsidies going on antidepressant medication.
However, with less than half of all people improving after first line medication, we must affect change.
Here are my five key steps to improve the situation:
- Introduce standardised mental health screening to increase early intervention and improve outcomes before challenges become severe.
- Engage all Australians in monitoring and managing their own mental health.
- Use technology to reduce the per-head cost of treatment and increase accessibility, so the right person gets the right support at the right time.
- View mental health as a dot likely to appear on all of our radars. Incentivise organisations to improve mental health, beyond EAPs and morning teas, to boost productivity and reduce costs.
- Become more objective and results-driven by introducing a mental health scoring system which all organisations can be ranked against.
Mental health should be managed in an objective and quantifiable environment.
It’s not about just spending more on mental health. We should be focused on increasing efficacy, not payments.
Australian mental health is one of the only non-measurable areas of health – and the only one that’s being treated in the same way it was a generation ago.
The price is too high and the solutions are in front of us. Mental health must move from talk to action.