Nearly five million community mental health consultations in Australia in 2003-04

Today, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released the latest in its series of comprehensive annual reports on mental health services in Australia.

The report, Mental Health Services in Australia 2003-04, includes details of care provided by community mental health services, hospitals, general practitioners and private psychiatrists. It also includes information on mental health-related disability support services and supported accommodation services.

It shows that there were over 4.9 million mental health service contacts in community-based mental health services and public hospital outpatient clinics in 2003-04 and that there were more service contacts for male (51.7%) than for female patients.

'There were 256 service contacts per 1,000 people for men, compared with 226 for women' said Ms Jenny Hargreaves, Head of AIHW's Hospitals and Mental Health Services Unit.

Between 1999-2000 and 2003-04, the number of mental health-related hospital separations increased at an average annual rate of just over 2.0%, to 197,712. Separations from public acute and private hospitals increased by 12.0% to 144,129 and by 4.5% to 38,347 separations respectively over this period, while separations from public psychiatric hospitals decreased by 5.3% to 15,236.

The pattern of mental health-related hospital separations differed according to where the patient usually resided.

'For patients who received specialised psychiatric care while hospitalised, the number of separations per 1,000 people was highest for those living in major cities (5.9) and lowest for those living in remote areas (2.7).

'The opposite was true for patients who did not receive specialised psychiatric care when hospitalised for mental health-related care. The number of separations per 1,000 people was highest for patients living in remote areas (8.0) and lowest for those living in major cities (3.4). These patterns may reflect differing roles of hospital and non-hospital care, and/or differing needs for care in different parts of the country,' Ms Hargreaves said.

Principal diagnoses of schizophrenia accounted for the highest number of hospital separations with specialised psychiatric care (19.0%), followed by depressive episode (16.6%).

For patients who did not receive specialised psychiatric care the most common principal diagnosis was mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol (17.3%), followed by depressive episode (13.8%).

In 2003, there were an estimated 2,810 full-time equivalent psychiatrists (including psychiatrists in training) - 14.1 per 100,000 people, and there were an estimated 12,883 mental health nurses - 64.8 per 100,000 people.

Major cities had a relatively high number of full time equivalent psychiatrists and mental health nurses per 100,000 people (18.5 and 65.7 respectively) while remote and very remote areas had the fewest (2.5 and 12.7 respectively).

21 December 2005

Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, Mobile: 0407 012 520.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.