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    PDF: Overview of mental health services in Australia (207KB)
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    Mental health services in Australia is an online presentation of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) series of annual mental health reports that describe the activity and characteristics of Australia's mental health care services. This report provides the most recent data available on the national response of the health and welfare system to the mental health care needs of Australians.

    The information in this report is constrained by the availability of comparable national data, which may result in some data overlaps and gaps in service information. As well as the data presented in the various webpages, readers can find detailed data for current and previous years in the Microsoft ® Excel workbooks attached to each section.

    Australia's mental health system

    State and territory governments fund and deliver public sector mental health services that provide specialist care for people with severe mental illness. These include specialised mental health care delivered in public acute and psychiatric hospital settings, state and territory specialised community mental health care services, and state and territory specialised residential mental health care services. In addition, states and territories provide other mental health-specific services in community settings such as supported accommodation and social housing programs.

    The Australian Government funds a range of mental health-related services through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)/Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS). The Australian Government also funds a range of mainstream programs and services which provide essential support for people with mental illness. These include income support, social and community support, disability services, workforce participation programs, and housing assistance.

    Service access

    The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing collected data on mental health service access in the preceding 12 months. It was estimated that about a third (35%) of people with a 12-month mental disorder (1.1 million people) made use of mental health services (Slade et al. 2009). Of these:

    • 71% consulted a general practitioner
    • 38% consulted a psychologist
    • 23% consulted a psychiatrist.

    Of those who did not receive mental health care, the majority (86%) reported that they perceived having no need for any mental health care.

    More recent evidence suggests that the treatment rates found in 2007 have increased (to an estimated 46%), due primarily to the introduction of government subsidised mental health treatment items to Medicare (Whiteford et al. 2014).

    Service providers

    Mental health‑related services are provided in Australia in a variety of ways, including: admitted patient care in hospital and other residential care; hospital‑based outpatient services; community mental health care services; and consultations with both specialists and general practitioners (GPs).

    Access to psychologists and other allied health providers may, dependent on eligibility, be subsidised through initiatives such as the Better Access initiative which gives patients Medicare-subsidised access to psychologists and other allied health providers after the preparation of a Mental Health Treatment Plan by a GP.

    The Australian Government also subsidises mental health-related services through the MBS and prescribed medications through the PBS and RPBS. State and territory governments fund and deliver services and assist with broader needs, such as accommodation support.

    No standard definition exists for 'mental health‑related service'. Information about how specific mental health‑related services are defined is available in relevant sections of this report.


    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2008. National survey of mental health and wellbeing: summary of results, Australia, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.

    Slade T, Johnston A, Teesson M, Whiteford H, Burgess P, Pirkis J, and Saw S. (2009) The Mental Health of Australians 2. Report on the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra.

    Whiteford HA, Buckingham WJ, Harris MG, Burgess PM, Pirkis JE, Barendregt JJ et al. 2014. Estimating treatment rates for mental disorders in Australia. Australian Health Review 38:80-5.