Mental illness now has an official cost, and it is staggering - an estimated $200-220 billion a year, or between $550 and $600 million per day.
That's one-tenth of the size of Australia's entire economic production last year - a massive economic potential to unlock.
Given that one in five Australians experiences mental illness every year, it has been well known by them and those who care for them that the emotional, psychosocial, health and wellbeing costs of mental ill-health and suicide flow well beyond an individual's experience.
But they've been hard to quantify in the way that governments pay attention.
The Productivity Commission has now done that, in its long-awaited, 1200-plus page final report on its inquiry into the economic impacts of mental ill-health that was released this week by the federal government.
It details how a fractured, disjointed and under-resourced mental health system is failing the millions of people (and their families and carers) who require support every day.
And it notes that there are a range of factors, such as those arising from deeply entrenched social, economic and environmental challenges, that lay beyond its scope.
These are important messages to government and for people experiencing mental health issues.
... the person-centred approach would benefit all Australians ...
The Productivity Commission says that people should be able to move from mentally healthy educational settings into mentally healthy workplaces and, when they do require support, feel empowered and enabled to make real choices around their access to healthcare and services.
It emphasises the significant personal and economic cost of people having to "cycle" in and out of hospital and urges the expansion of more community-based options including for those among us who are recovering from a suicide attempt.
It recognises the important role of care coordinators to connect housing, employment and other social services with people's healthcare needs, and that building and strengthening the mental health workforce is core to providing better support.
One of the big principles espoused by the Productivity Commission in its report is the need for a 'person-centred approach' to mental health.
I know! 'Person-centred approach'. It sounds like bureaucratic jargon but it is at the heart of the care we need to deliver.
The Productivity Commission spells it out, saying the person-centred approach would benefit all Australians, recognising and respecting differences between individuals.
And it gives people in regional and remote Australia a particular shout-out, saying they have "long faced unequal access to mental healthcare compared to those in capital cities" and would benefit particularly from reforms that would reduce mental health workforce shortages, "which are often stark outside of capital cities".
This once-in-a-generation national report also makes it clear that the burden lies not just with the Federal Government, but that all states and territories need to contribute.
And that, we can say, is where Victoria has stepped up to the mark.
Despite all the state has experienced this year with COVID-19, the Victorian Government is looking to mental health reforms that should see the state become a national and international leader in innovative service access, design and delivery in the coming years.
This week alone saw a series of extraordinary announcements. They included:
- $870 million for critical mental health services and supports
- $235 million to create 500 jobs in mental health, family violence and child protection
- $5.3 billion to build 12,300 social and community housing units, including 2000 for people with mental health issues
- $797 million to help Victorians cover the cost of their power bills and make homes more energy efficient, including $112 million to seal windows and doors, and upgrade heating, cooling and hot water in 35,000 social housing properties.
As the Productivity Commission report hinted, each of these play a critical role in improving mental health and together they are a sign of transformation to come.
Yes, they come with high price tags, but - as the Productivity Commission report tells us in such compelling detail - these are nothing like the costs of not acting and can promise so many benefits and so many rewards for mental health and wellbeing.
Watch this space!