Commissioner calls on nation to help stop suicide

One in five Australian adults experience a mental health difficulty in any given year.
One in five Australian adults experience a mental health difficulty in any given year. John Gass

THE entire nation needs to come on board to help Australians with mental health problems and prevent suicide, the nation's Mental Health Commissioner, Professor Allan Fels, recommended on Tuesday.

Prof Fels released the first-ever national mental health report card on Tuesday - a no-holds-barred look at how the nation is actually performing in addressing mental health problems.

While the report card revealed the country was doing well "in policy", it was not performing well in "delivery".

"Every Australian will experience a mental health difficulty themselves at some stage, or they will be impacted by the experiences of someone close to them," Prof Fel said.

"One in five Australian adults experience a mental health difficulty in any given year, and an estimated 7.29 million Australians aged 16 to 85 have a lived experienced of mental illness."

Prof Fels said the report uncovered some difficult truths which would be "very difficult to walk away from"; in an effort to ensure the politicians in charge of federal and state governments actually take action on the problems.

Among the issues the report identified were:

  • The early rates of death among people with a mental illness
  • Lack of access to appropriate health services
  • Use or misuse of alcohol
  • Significant correlation between mental and physical health problems

"The statistics related to physical illness and early death among people with a mental health difficulty are appalling. Their health is worse than the general community on just about every measure," Prof Fels said.

"People with a severe mental illness have their life expectancy reduced by 25 years on average due to the increased likelihood of heart related conditions, diabetes and obesity.

"There are many contributing factors and there are no simple answers, but this demands immediate action."

The report card was welcomed by several non-government organisations, including Uniting Care and the Disability Commissioner, Graeme Innes.

Mr Innes said he was pleased to take part in Prof Fels report, and the input from people with "lived experience of mental illness" was an essential ingredient in the report.

Mental Health Minister Mark Butler noted the report was a reminder of what the 3.2 million Australians who have a mental illness face.

But he said there was significant work to be done by the states and territories to stop people with mental illnesses being discharged into homelessness.

Prof Fels said the report card called for change in 10 specific areas, including a regular national survey of people with mental health problems; improved data collection and making up to 12% of the population able to access mental health services each year.

Other recommendations included listing mental illness as a "chronic disease" to improve funding; inclusion in the national "Closing the Gap" project; and various other national initiatives.


People with a mental illness

  • Live 10-32 years less than the general population
  • 12% will also have asthma, diabetes or, sinusitis or psoriasis
  • Were three time more likely to have diabetes
  • One third were more likely to have a 'cardiovascular event' in the next five years
  • More than two and half times more likely to smoke


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Topics:  depression illness mental health suicide

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