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The true cost of mental illness

Mental illness costs the Australian economy $200bn a year as sufferers confront an unnecessarily complex mental health system. The economic impact of mental illness in Australia has been laid bare in the Productivity Commission report into mental health.Suicide and mental ill health cost the country up to $70bn per year alone. That figure rises above…

Mental illness costs the Australian economy $200bn a year as sufferers confront an unnecessarily complex mental health system.

The economic impact of mental illness in Australia has been laid bare in the Productivity Commission report into mental health.

Suicide and mental ill health cost the country up to $70bn per year alone. That figure rises above $200bn, or a 10th of the country’s entire economic output last year, when the impact of premature death caused by mental illness is factored in.

The report, which Scott Morrison labelled “the most comprehensive of its kind”, noted there was “considerable scope for Australia to do better”.

Releasing the findings in Melbourne, the Prime Minister warned Australians “are still falling through the cracks”, and the cost of mental illness was borne privately and across the economy.

“It’s the cost that doesn’t discriminate, it falls right across the board. The cost of lost opportunity, lower living standards. When young people disengage from education … it’s the social and emotional costs of suffering, exclusion and in worse cases, premature death,” he said.

The report recommends more effective prevention and early intervention, which Mr Morrison has pledged to prioritise.

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

Up to half of the people who died from suicide did not interact with the system in the months leading up to their death, the Prime Minister said.

Those who did were met with a “bewildering array of unpredictable gateways”, he warned.

“The system is too complex and unco-ordinated. (It) fails too often because it is too complicated to navigate … families are left to try and find and co-ordinate their own care without clear guidance about what is available, affordable and appropriate.”

Mr Morrison announced the National Mental Health Initiative would be extended for another two years at a cost of $46m. The government will outline its full response to the report, which it received in June, by next year’s budget.

One in five Australians report experiencing mental illness every year.

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