Australia, World’s Leader in Mental Health

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By Athena Yenko | February 18, 2014 3:52 PM EST

Australia's Medicare funding for conditions like anxiety, depression and substance abuse had put the country as world's leader in mental health.

According to the Better Access, with authors led by Professor Harvey Whiteford of the University of Queensland, treatment for mental health has increase impressively in Australia compared to any country in the world. Form 37 per cent in 2006/07 mental health treatment increased to 46 per cent in 2009/10.

"No other country of which we are aware has demonstrated such an increase within three years," Mr Whiteford told the Australian Health Review.

For Kate Karnell, CEO of the mental health charity beyondblue, Australia leading the world in mental health is wonderful news for the industry.

"Taking the first step to get support is often difficult, but most people make a full recovery after doing so. We have also launched Man Therapy, a first of its kind campaign that has attracted over 300,000 unique visitors to its website. The more we work to get these messages into the community, the more we believe that treatment rates will continue to grow," Ms Karnell said.

However, Professor Lyn Littlefield, executive director of the Australian Psychological Society said that there were still 54 per cent of people with mental illness left untreated.

Medicare subsidised a maximum of 10 psychology sessions a year - a decrease from 18 sessions when Medicare was newly introduced.

"We have already begun to see an erosion of the effectiveness of Better Access," Ms Littlefied said urging the federal government to not impose cuts on mental health subsidy.

Dr Jennifer Bowers from the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, meanwhile, called for the government to have more consistent approach to mental health policy. According to a review she conducted with a team, the government had the tendency to bring attention to delivering good mental health services during calamities like flood, fire or drought. However, the attention wanes when the calamity disappears.

"It's really after that event that people need to take stock, and what happens is they throw a lot of money at it at the time, but in between times there are no additional resources or ways of actually getting in to those people to get them to prepare and help themselves in the meantime," she said.

Frank Quinlan from the Mental Health Council of Australia said that the government is willing to look into the result of this review and is planning to invest more on mental health.

The National Mental Health Commission will update on government's funding by November.

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