ABS confirms mental ill health remains the number one chronic health condition   

Australian Psychological Society

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey, released today, found more than five million Australians experience chronic mental health conditions every year.

As Australia’s most common chronic health condition, mental ill health is putting immense stress on patients, families and the community.

The survey also found that 50% of people with chronic mental health conditions have multimorbidities, with an average life expectancy of 8 years less than people who don’t.

These challenges are years in the making. All governments, our profession and the sector need to do all that we can to get these numbers down, and to prevent chronic mental health conditions from developing in the first place.

We have spoken with the Sydney Morning Herald this afternoon to bring more attention to the need for government to focus reform efforts on people in most need.

Better Access Mental Health Advisory Committee extended

Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler MP has today announced the work of the Federal Government’s Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) will be extended into 2024.

The MHAC is providing the Federal Government with expert advice on how best to implement recommendations from the Better Access Review and ensure psychology and the broader mental health sector are equipped to meet current and future needs.

The sector had hoped that the government’s long-awaited response to the 2022 Better Access Review would occur in 2023. APS members may be understandably disappointed by this delay.

The APS was briefed by Minister Butler today who stressed the importance of getting reform right for psychologists and patients. He also thanked the sector for its continued collaboration.

We are working harder than ever to ensure Better Access reform will rightly position psychologists and provide access to the community for highly valued psychological services. It is complex reform, and today’s ABS findings underscore the need for us to get it right.

Workforce pressures

Workforce constraints, maldistribution of psychologists and unprecedented demand are leading to record wait times and significant burnout within our profession. Psychologists continue to provide an incredible community service under demanding conditions, and we continue to advocate for community needs at the highest levels of government.

Last year, we successfully advocated for an extra $93 million in workforce funding to begin alleviating some of these workforce pressures through more university placements, but there’s more to do.

As a partial response to the Better Access review, the APS has played a key role in developing the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy 2023-2032. Through this, the Federal Government and all state and territory governments have committed to prioritising the growth of the psychology workforce.

More support for mental health services

The Minister made additional announcements today which included:

  • A $456.7 million five-year investment into Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline.

  • $43.9 million to extend funding for a range of specialised digital mental health services, through to June 2025.

While these announcements are a small step in the right direction, the structural challenges facing the mental health sector and patients are complex and significant and require extensive and urgent reform.

We thank the Minister for his continued engagement with the APS and for his briefing on these matters today.

Finally, we thank all APS members for their tireless support. We will keep members updated as consultation progresses.

We wish you a restful, safe and happy end of year break and look forward to continuing our work with you in 2024.

Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe FAPS GAICD

APS President

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