The role of mental health in the Australian economy will be put under the microscope of a Productivity Commission Inquiry, led by the Morrison Government.
The inquiry is due to begin later this month and will uncover the best ways to support and improve the mental health of Australians, the nation’s leading cause of disability.
“It is crucial that we know that this funding is delivering the best possible outcomes for individuals and their families and that is one of the issues the inquiry will investigate,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt has worked alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Treasurer to finalise the terms of reference and establish the inquiry.
“Every year around four million Australians deal with some form of chronic or episodic mental health condition. Sadly, one in five Australians affected by mental illness do not seek help because of stigma,” he says.
“I have consulted with State and Territory health and mental health ministers to seek their views on the scope and terms of reference of the inquiry and have welcomed their support.”
The Productivity Commission, which is due to provide is final report within 18 months, will undertake broad consultation, with hearings in regional Australia and the invitation for public submissions.
Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher has also shared his support for the Productivity Commission Inquiry, as an opportunity to broadly consider ways to support and improve national mental wellbeing and associated social and economic participation for all Australians.
“With around four million Australians dealing with some form of mental health conditions every year, Mental Health Week is an important time to refocus on what we need to do to ensure the best possible support is available to people with mental illness to help them lead full and productive lives,” a Department of Social Services spokesperson says.
Mental Health Australia has welcomed the inquiry, describing the Productivity Commission as “well placed” to look at complex intergovernmental arrangements, short-term funding arrangements and the value of different investments in mental health.
“There are a broad range of social, environmental and economic factors that affect the nation’s mental health and I’m encouraged that the Productivity Commission will be free to consider and report on all these issues,” Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Australia, Frank Quinlan says.
He says the inquiry will be a “real positive step towards better health for all Australians” providing the Productivity Commission “embraces this challenge and delivers clear and tangible actions that are supported by State and Federal Governments.”
“But one of the questions it will have to ask, is why so many previous inquiries and reports into mental health have failed to provide us with durable solutions to the problems we now face.”
CEO of beyondblue Georgie Harman also welcomes the inquiry and says it has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for millions of individuals and their families and benefit the economy.
“There have been numerous investigations and reviews into mental health in Australia, but this is the first time the Productivity Commission will take the lead. It is a significant step forward and one that has the potential to drive real change,” Ms Harman says.
“This announcement reflects what the mental health sector has been calling for; that the impacts of mental health be recognised as a fundamental and core part of Governments’ economic and productivity agenda.”
Mental health is a key priority in the Morrison Government’s Long Term Health Plan, with an extra $338.1 million investment into suicide prevention, research and programs for older Australians.
The Government also named child, youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health as first priorities for its $125 million mental health initiative, Million Minds Research Mission.
The mission will recognise the alarming facts that more than three quarters of mental health problems begin before the age of 25 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experience higher levels of certain mental illness and suicide deaths than other Australians.