Initial results from the first national survey of mental health and wellbeing in 14 years has confirmed the growing importance of mental health services, with Australians seeking mental health support more than ever before.

Member for Barker Tony Pasin said the Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the results from the first cohort of the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, which collected data from people aged 16 to 85 years from December 2020 to July 2021.

The results show many Australians are taking steps to look after their mental health. The key findings include:

  • 15% of adults experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in the four weeks before their interview.
  • Almost two-thirds (61%) of adults took actions to improve their own mental health in the last 12 months, including increasing exercise and physical activity (37%), positive thinking (29%) and increasing enjoyable activities (28%).
  • 3.4 million adults reported seeing a health professional for their mental health in the last 12 months, and 612,000 adults used other phone and digital mental health services, such as crisis support or counselling, online treatment programs, or support groups and forums.

“While much of the focus lately has been on the physical health threats of a global pandemic, the lockdowns and other restrictions that have been put in place to protect us from COVID have given rise to widespread mental health impacts, a phenomenon that has become known as the ‘shadow pandemic’,” said Mr Pasin.

The Morrison Government has embarked on system wide reform to ensure Australia’s mental health system is more compassionate, accessible and affordable.

The Morrison Government’s 2021-22 Budget made the largest Commonwealth mental health investment to date, allocating $2.3 billion to the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

Since March last year, the Government has provided more than $1 billion in funding to expand mental health services in response to the pandemic, including a substantial investment in telehealth.

“Results from this initial study confirm the importance of mental health services,” Mr Pasin said.

“As well as extending Medicare subsidies to telehealth mental health services, we have boosted funding to key service providers such as headspace, Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline,” Mr Pasin said.

The heart of the Government’s system wide reform going forward is creating a national network of multidisciplinary mental health treatment centres, including Head to Health adult mental health treatment centres, Head to Health Kids treatment centres, and expanding the network of headspace youth treatment centres.

“The Federal Government has committed to establishing eight new adult Head to Health centres and 24 new satellite centres. I’m fighting for one of these centres for the Limestone Coast,” Mr Pasin said.

“The Head to Health centres are intended to provide a highly visible and accessible entry point to services for people experiencing mental health distress, offering assessment to match people to the services they need while providing on the spot support, care and advice,” Mr Pasin said.

“Much like our headspace services our youth, head to health centres are designed with a ‘no wrong door’ approach.”

“I can think of no better community to benefit from a service like this than the Limestone Coast,” Mr Pasin said.

“I look forward to further results from the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing which will provide deeper and more detailed understanding of the mental health challenges facing Australians, and how they manage these challenges.

“It will be vital for planning services at the local and national level as the Government continues to reform mental health and preventive health—one of the four pillars of our Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan,” Mr Pasin said.

“In the meantime, I’ll continue to advocate for more services for communities across Barker,” Mr Pasin said.

The survey of mental health is one of seven separate surveys which will make up the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study (IHMHS). The Morrison Government has provided $89.5 million to the ABS to conduct the study, including data collection from 2020 to 2022.