Overview of mental health services in Australia

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Overview of mental health services in Australia (305KB PDF)

Mental health is a key component of overall health and wellbeing (WHO 2013). In any year in Australia, around 1 in 5 people aged 16–85 will experience a mental health disorder (ABS 2008). Mental health affects and is affected by multiple socioeconomic factors, including a person’s access to services, living conditions and employment status, and affects not only the individual but also their families and carers (Slade et al. 2009; WHO 2013). Mental health and physical health are also related. People with mental illnesses are more likely to develop physical illness and tend to die earlier than the general population (Lawrence et al. 2013). Since the COVID-19 disease pandemic arrived in Australia in early 2020, there has been concern about the impact that the virus and ‘physical distancing’ is having on Australians’ mental health.

A range of mental health‑related services are provided in Australia by various levels of government. Such services include admitted patient care in hospital and other residential care, community mental health care services, and consultations with specialist medical practitioners, general practitioners (GPs), psychologists and other allied health practitioners.

Over the last 3 decades Australian governments have worked together, via the National Mental Health Strategy, to develop mental health programs and services to better co-ordinate services and address the mental health needs of Australians. The National Mental Health Strategy has included five 5-year National Mental Health Plans which cover the period 1993 to 2022, with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Action Plan on Mental Health overlapping between 2006 and 2011. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan was agreed in 2017, and a number of mental health-related measures were announced in the 2019 Federal budget, providing $736.6 million for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives over 7 years. In response to the COVID-19 disease pandemic, in May 2020 National Cabinet endorsed the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan and the Australian Government committed an additional $48.1 million in support of its priority actions. State and territory governments have also introduced various mental health support packages to better support the mental health and wellbeing of their residents.

Monitoring mental health consumer and carer experiences has been a long-term goal of the National Mental Health Strategy. More information on consumer and carer experiences is progressively becoming available, for example, through the Your Experience of Service (YES) survey, which is currently used in some jurisdictions in Australia. The YES survey is offered to consumers who interact with specialised state and territory mental health services and aims to help these services and mental health consumers to work together to build better services.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2008. National survey of mental health and wellbeing: summary of results, Australia, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.

Lawrence D, Hancock K & Kisely S 2013. The gap in life expectancy from preventable physical illness in psychiatric patients in Western Australia: retrospective analysis of population based registers.

Slade T, Johnston A, Teesson M, Whiteford H, Burgess P, Pirkis J, and Saw S (2009). The Mental Health of Australians 2. Report on the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra.

WHO (World Health Organization) 2013. Mental health action plan 2013–2020