10 things to know about Aussies and mental health

Today is World Mental Health Day… These statistics reveal how Aussies experience mental health

World Mental Health Day – 10 October – is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy.

It is an initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health to raise public awareness of mental health issues worldwide, and forms part of national Mental Health Week.

Here are some statistics that give you an idea of just how prevalent mental health conditions are among the Australian population.

  1. 1 in 5 Australians experience a mental health condition in a given year.
  2. Almost 1 in 2 Australians will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.
  3. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. Every year in Australia, approximately 14% of the population (1 in 7) experiences an anxiety disorder.
  4. The most commonly experienced anxiety disorders were post-traumatic stress disorder (6%) and social phobia (5%).
  5. Affective disorders affect 6% of the population every year, while substance use disorders affect 5%. Depression is the most common affective disorder (4%), and the harmful use of alcohol the most common substance use disorder (3%).
  6. Women were more likely to experience mental disorders (22%) than men (18%), with a higher rate of anxiety disorders (18% compared to 11% for men) and affective disorders (7% and 5%). However, men had more than twice the rate of substance use disorders (7%) compared to women (3%).
  7. More than a quarter (26%) of people aged 16-24 years and a similar proportion (25%) of people aged 25-34 years had a 12-month mental disorder, compared with 6% of those aged 75-85 years old.
  8. Substance use disorders are more common for younger people (13%) than other age groups, while anxiety disorders are more common in people aged 35–44 (18%).
  9. Over half (54%) the people who had ever been homeless had a disorder, nearly three times the rate of people who had not.
  10. In 2017, in Australia 3,128 people died from intentional self-harm, rising 9.1% from 2,866 in 2016. Deaths from intentional self-harm occur among males at a rate more than three times greater than that for females.

Mental health researchers Dr Jo Robinson and Professor Patrick McGorry say that this rise in suicides is “devastating”.

They especially point out that the number of suicides of women aged under 25 has increased by 76% over the past 10 years.

“There remains significant under-investment in the mental health system. We cannot expect to save lives if people who need help are being turned away from specialist care,” they wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday.

“The public, emergency physicians and mental health professionals all agree that emergency departments are inappropriate venues for mentally ill and distressed people. However, there are simply no other accessible options.

“There is an urgent imperative to invest in youth suicide prevention where it is likely to have greatest impact – in our service system. If we can construct a system that can respond to young people at risk, when and where they need support – be that in the community, in primary or emergency care, or within tertiary services – we will undoubtedly be better placed to reverse the devastating trend we have seen over this past 10 years.”

Mental Health Australia is leading the World Mental Health Day campaign in Australia.

Its ‘Do You See What I See?’ campaign challenges perceptions about mental illness in Australia and encourages everyone to look at mental health in a more positive light, in an effort to reduce stigma and make way for more people to seek the help and support they deserve.

If you need help, please contact:

Lifeline 131 114

Beyondblue 1300 224 636

MensLine 1300 789 978

Pharmacists’ Support Service 1300 244 910.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 4326.0, 2007. ABS: Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Causes of Death, Australia, 3303.0, 2017. ABS: Canberra.

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