Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Mental health services, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 August 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Mental health services. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services
Mental health services. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 07 July 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Mental health services [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Aug. 8]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Mental health services, viewed 8 August 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/mental-health-services/mental-health-services
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In a calendar year, 1 in 5 (20%) people aged 16–85 will experience mental illness (ABS 2008). Mental illness can affect not just the individual, but also their family, friends and the community – in 2018, Mental and substance use disorders were responsible for around 13% of the total disease burden in Australia (MHSA, AIHW 2021).
People with mental illness can access a variety of support services, which are delivered by governments, and by the private and not-for-profit sectors.
Mental health treatment, care and support is provided in a range of settings and services, including:
Health care professionals who provide treatment, care and support within the mental health system include:
A large number of support services are provided to people with a mental illness each year. For example, state and territory community mental health care services provided around 10 million service contacts in 2019–20 (Table 1).
Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services(a)
12.4 million services
Psychologists (including Clinical Psychologists) (45%) were the largest providers of these services.
11.8% of services were delivered via telehealth.
People accessing Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services
2.7 million people
10.7% of Australians accessed these services, up from 5.7% in 2008–09.
Mental health-related prescriptions(b)
40.7 million prescriptions
4.4 million patients (17.2% of the Australian population) received these prescriptions
72% of prescriptions were for antidepressant medication(b).
Public sector community mental health care service contacts
10.0 million contacts
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients received community mental health care services at more than 3 times the rate of non-Indigenous patients.
Emergency department (ED) services (public hospitals)
310,471 presentations in 2019–20
310,471 presentations to public Australian EDs were mental health-related, which was 3.8% of all presentations (up from 2.9% in 2011-12).
Overnight admitted patient hospitalisations
Depressive episode (15.4%) and Schizophrenia (13.4%) were the most common principal diagnoses for overnight mental health-related hospitalisations with specialised psychiatric care.
Same-day admitted patient hospitalisations
Almost 1 in 4 (22.4%) of same day, admitted mental health-related hospitalisations with specialised psychiatric care in public hospitals had a principal diagnosis of Depressive episode.
About $11.0 billion, or $431 per person, was spent on mental health-related services in Australia in 2019–20; $10.4 billion of this was government mental health expenditure, representing 7.6% of total government health expenditure. Per person, total spending on mental health increased (in real terms) by an annual average of 1.3% between 2015–16 and 2019–20. The total expenditure in 2019–20 included:
Comparing 2015–16 with 2019–20, recurrent per person spending on state and territory specialised mental health services increased (in real terms) from $250 to $260.
See Expenditure on mental health services for more information.
A variety of professionals deliver care and support to people with mental illness, including psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, general practitioners (GPs), social workers, counsellors and peer workers. Available registered and employed workforce data for some of these professions indicate that in Australia in 2019 there were:
In 2019–20, there were about 35,686 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff employed in state and territory specialised mental health care services.
See Mental health workforce for more information.
Safety and quality is important in all areas of the health system. A safe and high-quality health system provides the most appropriate and best-value care, while keeping patients safe from preventable harm. Data are available that can be used to measure aspects of safety and quality in the Australian mental health care system – including use of restrictive practices, consumer perspectives of care, and change in mental health consumers’ clinical outcomes.
Use of seclusion and restraint are examples of restrictive practices and are included in the Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services (NMHPC). Seclusion is defined as the confinement of a patient alone in a room or area from which free exit is prevented. Restraint is defined as the restriction of an individual's freedom of movement by physical or mechanical means.
Reducing, and where possible, eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint is a policy priority in Australian mental health care and has been supported by changes to legislation, policy and clinical practice (RANZCP 2021).
Seclusion events in specialised acute public hospital mental health services over the past decade have fallen from 13.9 seclusion events per 1,000 bed days in 2009–10 to 8.1 events per 1,000 bed days in 2019–20 (Figure 1).
Mechanical restraint events fell from 1.7 events per 1,000 bed days of patient care in 2015–16 to 0.7 in 2019–20. The use of physical restraint has remained relatively stable, since reporting began in 2015–16, varying between 10 to 12 events per 1,000 bed days of patient care (Figure 1).
The rate of seclusion events per 1,000 bed days for public sector acute mental health hospital services in Australia has generally decreased between 2009–10 (13.9) and 2019-20 (8.1), with the largest changes occurring between 2009–10 and 2013–14. There has been a decline in mechanical restraint between 2015–16 (1.7 events per 1,000 bed days) and 2019-20 (0.7 events per 1,000 bed days). Physical restraint has varied between around 10 and 11 events per 1,000 bed days over this same period.
See Restrictive practices for more information.
Patient-reported experience measures collect patients’ views and observations on aspects of the care they have received. Monitoring mental health consumer and carer experiences of service has been a long-term goal of the National Mental Health Strategy (Commonwealth of Australia 2009 and CHC 2017) and patient-reported measures have attracted increasing national focus for their potential to support health service improvement. One such measure – the Your Experience of Service (YES) survey – has been implemented in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland specialised mental health services. Each state has a method of administration that best suits local needs and, therefore, comparisons between jurisdictions with different methods should be made with caution.
In 2019–20, more than 25,600 YES survey responses were collected across 68 mental health service organisations across New South Wales and Queensland. Victoria did not conduct the survey during 2019–20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019–20 it is estimated that:
See Consumer perspectives of mental health care for more information.
Clinical measures that capture information about the health and wellbeing of people during mental health service use can be used to report on whether consumers improve after receiving mental health care. The National Outcomes and Casemix Collection (NOCC) encourages the routine use of outcome measures in all publicly funded or managed mental health services and provides data for reporting one of the Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services (NMHPC).
See Consumer outcomes in mental health care for more information.
The potential for COVID-19 to impact mental health and wellbeing was recognised early in the pandemic (WHO 2020). In addition to concerns around contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself, some of the measures necessary to contain its spread were also likely to negatively impact mental health (NMHC 2020).
The Australian Government introduced additions to the MBS to support provision of health care via telehealth (telephone and videoconference) to reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19. These MBS items include mental health services provided by GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and other allied health workers.
Between 16 March 2020 and 9 January 2022, there were 25 million MBS-subsidised mental health-related services processed and $2.8 billion in benefits paid. About 7.3 million (29.2%) of these services were delivered via telehealth.
In March 2020, the Australian Government temporarily expanded existing Continued Dispensing arrangements through the Continued Dispensing (Emergency Measures) for most PBS and RPBS medicines supplied through community pharmacies to support Australians’ continued access to PBS medicines in response to the pandemic (Department of Health 2022; Services Australia 2021).
Key trends include:
There are a range of crisis, support and information services available to support Australians experiencing mental health issues, such as Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue.
These crisis support services reported an increased demand for their services in March 2020 and have recorded fluctuations in activity during the course of the pandemic. Total demand for crisis and support organisations trended upward from June 2021 to early September 2021, with Lifeline reaching record call demand in September 2021. Direct comparisons between organisations are not meaningful due to differences in populations being serviced, service models, funding envelopes, workforce availability and information systems.
See COVID-19 impact on mental health services for more information, including state and territory breakdowns.
If you or someone you know needs help please call:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2008) National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: summary of results, ABS website, accessed 16 February 2022.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2019) Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Australian Burden of Disease Study, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 16 February 2022.
AIHW (2020) Mental Health Services in Australia, AIHW website, accessed 16 February 2022.
AIHW (2021) Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2018, AIHW website, accessed 16 February 2022.
CHC (COAG [Council of Australian Governments] Health Council) (2017) The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, Department of Health, Australian Government, accessed 16 February 2022.
Commonwealth of Australia (2009) Fourth National Mental Health Plan—An agenda for collaborative government action in mental health 2009–2014, Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Government, accessed 26 July 2021.
Department of Health (2020) Health Workforce, Department of Health website, accessed 30 January 2022
Department of Health (2021a) Better Access initiative, Department of Health website, accessed 29 June 2021.
Department of Health (2021b) Coronavirus (COVID-19) at a glance – 25 April 2021, Department of Health website, accessed 26 July 2021.
NMHPC (National Mental Health Performance Subcommittee) (2013) Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services, 3rd edn, NMHPC, accessed 16 February 2022.
NMHC (National Mental Health Commission) (2015) Position statement on seclusion and restraint in mental health, NMHC accessed 16 February 2022.
NMHC (2020) National mental health and wellbeing pandemic response plan, NMHC, accessed 7 October 2021.
RANZCP (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists) (2021) Position Statement 61: Minimising and, where possible, eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint in people with mental illness, RANZCP website, accessed 2 February 2022.
Services Australia Changes to patient services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, Services Australia website, accessed 30 August 2021.
WHO (World Health Organization) (2020) Substantial investment needed to avert mental health crisis, WHO website, accessed 7 October 2020.
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