Mental health workers may be employed in a wide variety of settings, including state-run health services, private or not-for-profit care providers, and/or private practice. Each state and territory has a mental health workforce plan (Cleary, Thomas and Boyle 2020), intended to guide and support the development of the mental health workforce to ensure it meets the needs of residents. A 10-year national mental health workforce strategy is currently under development and expected to be released in 2022. For further information, refer to the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce site.
This section provides data on the number of psychiatrists, mental health nurses, psychologists and mental health occupational therapists who are employed in Australia. These professions are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and national boards, which enforces registration standards and legally protect these titles.
In 2020, there were 3,769 psychiatrists, 24,567 mental health nurses, 31,618 psychologists and 2,555 mental health occupational therapists working in Australia.
The total number of psychiatrists grew at an average annual rate of 3.8% from 2016 to 2020, compared to 3.6% for the whole medical profession. Notably, the number of psychiatrists aged 20–34 increased by a much higher rate of 26.9% (Males – 21.7%, Females – 33.4%) over this time period (Figure WK.2.1). Additionally, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) reported that 316 trainees had commenced their Fellowship program between February 2020 to February 2021, an increase of 52 from 2019. Just over half (54.0%) of trainees were aged 31 to 40 (RANZCP 2021a.
In 2020, the majority of psychiatrists (58.4%) were male, although the number of female psychiatrists has increased at more than double the average annual rate from 2016 to 2020 than male (6.1% and 2.3%, respectively). The other three professions were overwhelmingly female, comprising 71.0% of the mental health nurse workforce, 79.7% of the psychologist workforce and 84.9% of the mental health occupational therapist workforce (Figure WK.2.2).
Figure WK.2: Specialist mental health workers, number, by age group, sex, year, 2013–2020