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Over $5.8 billion, or $272 per Australian, was spent on mental health-related services in 2008–09, according to a new mental health services in Australia website unveiled today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The website was launched by Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, as part of Mental Health Week.

AIHW Director David Kalisch said the new interactive website provided ‘a comprehensive picture of the national response to the mental health care needs of Australians’.

‘The new online format will enable Australian mental health services data to be published progressively as it becomes available each year, making it timelier,’ Mr Kalisch said.

The website shows increasing use of all mental health-related services, including hospitalisation and other residential care, hospital-based outpatient services and community mental health care services, and consultations with both specialists and GPs. These services were funded by a combination of state and territory governments, the Australian Government and private health insurance funds.

‘The first port of call for people seeking help for a mental illness is often a GP, and there were an estimated 13.3 million mental health-related GP encounters in 2009-10,’ Mr Kalisch said.

Depression, Anxiety and Sleep disturbance were the three mental health-related problems most frequently managed by GPs in 2009–10.

Over the same period, there were 5.1 million MBS-subsidised mental health-related services provided by psychiatrists, psychologists and other allied mental health professionals to over 836,000 patients.

About 336,000 people in Australia also accessed community mental health care services in 2008–09. With each person likely to use these services more than once, there were over 6 million contacts involving clients and community mental health care practitioners. Community mental health care services are specialised public psychiatric services providing care for people affected by a mental illness.

An estimated 29 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications were dispensed in 2009–10, with around three quarters of these being subsidised by the Australian Government. Antidepressant medication accounted for nearly 60% of mental health-related prescriptions, followed by antianxiety medications (14%) and antipsychotics (12%).

Health care professionals providing mental health-related services include psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, general practitioners and social workers. In 2008, 15,000 mental health nurses were employed in Australia, representing 6% of all nurses.

The Mental Health Services in Australia website is at http://mhsa.aihw.gov.au. A companion summary report, Mental health services—in brief 2011, is also available.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 11 October 2011

Further information:
Nigel Harding: (02) 6244 1025 or 0409 307 671

Jess Cumming: (02) 6249 5033 or 0401 769 793

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Mental health services—in brief 2011