Questions Raised Over Mental Health Inquiry
8 October 2018 at 5:31 pm
The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the economic effects of mental health has been welcomed by the sector, but a peak mental health body is encouraging the government to look beyond economic productivity.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the inquiry on Sunday, and said it would uncover the impact of mental illness on the economy, and recommend government action to improve mental health, social and economic participation.
The announcement of the inquiry followed a revelation by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that 3,128 people took their own lives in 2017, representing a 10-year high in the suicide rate.
Hunt said mental health not only had a personal effect on people, but on their employment and productivity as well.
“As we enter Mental Health Week it is important that we continue to shine a light on mental health and work hard to ensure we are providing the best possible support to Australians living with mental illness,” Hunt said.
CEO of Beyondblue, Georgie Harman, welcomed the inquiry, and said it had the potential to improve the lives of millions of people and their families, while also benefiting the economy.
Harman said 91 per cent of employees believed mentally healthy workplaces were important, but only 52 per cent said their workplace was mentally healthy, and that workplaces that invested in mental health strategies benefited.
“People are more likely to stay in their jobs, be productive and engaged at work and less likely to take time off work if they are mentally healthy,” Harman said.
“The flow on macroeconomic and social impacts can be profound.”
Executive director of Community Mental Health Australia (CMHA) Amanda Bresnan told Pro Bono News while the inquiry was needed, looking beyond economic productivity was important.
“For a lot of people with complex mental illness, employment might not be the best thing for them,” Bresnan said.
“We need to look at how people contribute to the community in other ways.”
Bresnan said the Productivity Commission would do a good job of the inquiry, but said it was important for all parts of the social sector to engage with the inquiry as it affected more than just the mental health sector.
“Areas such as welfare, the corrections system… they all play a part and have a crucial role in the outcome of this,” she said.
“I think we need to look at where that money is going into specific mental health services, but also into other services that are really important for people with mental illness to be able to achieve productivity.”
The commission is expected to hand over the report in the next 18 months.
If you’re experiencing issues with mental health, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.