Mental health services cost Australia $8.5 billion a year

Peter Terlato 2 February 2017

man mental health patient doctor

Spending has increased more than 10% over four years.

More than $8.5 billion was spent nationally on mental health services during 2014/15, which is $911 million more than in 2010/11, according to the latest statistics.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released data this week which revealed expenditure on mental health services has risen steadily over the last few years.

In real terms, spending increased from $343 per person in 2010/11 to $361 per person in 2014/15.

The majority (59%) of funding was provided by state and territory governments, while more than one third (36%) came from federal coffers and a small proportion (5%) courtesy of private health insurance funds.

State and territory specialised mental health services cost $5.2 million, with the majority of funds ($2.2 billion) allocated to public hospital services and community mental health care services ($1.9 billion).

Funds were dispersed to 160 public hospitals, employing more than 14,000 full-time staff covering 2.2 million patient care days. 62 private hospitals provided 2,700 specialised mental health service beds.

AIHW's data also revealed that the Australian government paid $1.1 billion (or $46 per person) in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health‑related services in 2015/16.

In addition, $564 million (or $24 per person) went to subsidised prescriptions under the PBS/RPBS.

While those who have been treated for a mental illness can often have difficulty obtaining general insurance (particularly income protection and travel insurance), private health insurance does cover some of the treatment costs for mental illness, although the level of cover varies widely with insurers.

Australians in regional areas are more likely to suffer mental health conditions than those in city areas.

Almost half of all Australians aren't confident they could spot the symptoms of mental health issues, with the overwhelming majority pointing to better psychological education as the key to improved awareness.

If you, a family member, friend or colleague need access to 24-hour crisis support, suicide prevention services or other mental health resources, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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