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Why Awareness is No Longer Enough

There is considerable interest by individuals and corporations in minimising the currently high levels of mental illness in the western world.  Mental illness statistics have been growing consistently over the past years to reach epidemic levels with one in five people experiencing some form of mental illness at any given time.  The costs to individuals, businesses, the health budget and communities is significant and not sustainable.  Depression related disability in Australia is expected to cost the Australian economy 14.9 billion dollars each year, with treatment costs estimated at $600 million annually. For more than fifteen years now, we have been spending money on increasing awareness of what are called the ‘high prevalence’ mental disorders – depression and anxiety – and organisations such as beyondblue, black dog institute and SANE Australia have all made a significant and valuable contribution to public education. But in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, rates of mental illness continue to soar affecting younger and younger populations, whilst the amount of time feeling unwell has increased and a number of people attending for conventional treatment fail to respond. For many of us working at the coalface –  doctors, psychologists, social workers, health workers, psychiatrists – the burden of ever-increasing numbers of depressed and anxious patients on the doorsteps of our clinics has had a toll on our own health and wellbeing.  It simply isn’t sustainable to expect twenty per cent of the population to receive timely and effective treatment on a needs basis from the existing health workforce.  I have known many health professionals to suffer stress, anxiety and burnout as a consequence... read more