Mental illness costs Australia $160bn annually – gov’t report

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Mental illness is costing the Australian economy 160 billion dollars every year, a report found.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison released the report from the Productivity Commission on Tuesday in Canberra.

The government’s principal economic advisory body, said mental illness and suicide cost the country 220 billion Australian dollars (161 billion dollars) per year in lost productivity, health care and life expectancy.

“That’s more than a 10th of Australia’s entire economic production in 2019,” Morrison said.

The report found that systematic problems have led to “persistent wasteful overlaps and yawning gaps in service provision.”

“Australia’s current mental health system is not comprehensive and fails to provide the treatment and support that people who need it legitimately expect,” it said.

It made several recommendations which it said could save government fund.

Responding to the report, Morrison promised a new preventative and proactive approach to dealing with mental illness.

“We will not wait for risk factors to eventuate or warning signs to escalate, but offer the right intervention and support as early as possible,” he said.

The report includes five priority areas for reform and more than 20 recommendations including making the social and emotional development of schoolchildren a national priority.

It called for mental health professionals to be made a part of police communication centres, improving housing and homelessness support and for greater support for international students.

It noted that some of the recommendations would be more difficult to implement than others with varying timeframes.

“Some of the relevant reforms would not be easy or quick to implement, requiring negotiation between multiple government agencies and/or an upskilling of the relevant workforce and changes in deep-seated workplace and community cultures,” the report said.

“However, the Productivity Commission considers that these limitations should not deter policymakers from pursuing highly beneficial reform.”

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