More direction needed in mental health investment - Sax Institute review


Filed under: [Health & Safety]

Mental illness affects many Australians - in 2012, one in five experienced a mental illness of some kind. Due to the prevalence of mental health issues, the federal government invests considerable time and energy into research and prevention schemes.

However, according to a recent review conducted by the Sax Institute for the Mental Health Commission of NSW, mental health research investment suffers from a lack of direction, and there needs to be more money directed towards programs in workplaces and schools.

The 'Evidence Check Review' concluded that current mental health research is operating in an "information vacuum", and that while money is being spent it is not producing the desired results. It also urged governments to be more transparent about where the money was going.

Review author Professor Christopher Doran from the Hunter Medical Research Institute said: "Australia is operating in an information vacuum when it comes to developing mental health programs and much more research is needed."

Fortunately, the review outlines a few potential key areas for further investment, among other recommendations.

It highlights that most money is being spent on medication and therapies, rather than programs for schools and workplaces where people spend large amounts of time and the impact of mental illness is definitely felt.

The review also stated that people who suffer from mental illness may find it difficult to complete school or get a job. This can have a considerable cost on society and a huge impact on a person's ability to participate in the community. Mental illness can also have a detrimental impact on the corporate wellness of an organisation, and specifically an employee's ability to perform in the workplace.

NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley said that if people were better informed about mental health research investment it may improve the overall standard, so there should be room in the budget to increase spending transparency and reporting.

"The review identifies a range of strategies which are proven to be effective, and others that demonstrate real promise. There is a real need for investment in areas of promising work, and this investment should include the funds to evaluate that work. As we do more research we will have more confidence in knowing the programs we are funding meet the needs of the consumers," Mr Feneley explained in a statement.

The full review is available for download at the Sax Institute website. The Institute will also be working closely with government to further policy development.