The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) are calling for immediate action to combat Australia’s severe psychiatry workforce shortage, following the release of new data by ABS today that shows one in five Australians experienced a mental health disorder in the previous twelve months.
More than two in five Australians aged 16–85 years have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime and anxiety disorders are the most common, the analysis shows.
“We can no longer afford to sit back and watch this mental health crisis unfold in the country,” said Dr Astha Tomar, President-elect of the RANZCP.
“These statistics are deeply concerning and highlight the pressing need for federal, state and territory governments to work with clinicians at the front lines to create a comprehensive, long-term workforce planning and resourcing strategy and enact system-wide reform.
“While it is encouraging to see that more Australians accessed mental health support in the past two years, we remain concerned about the burgeoning wait lists and long ED wait times in public hospitals.
"Australia is projected to encounter a gross under supply of psychiatrists over the next decade, which will require not only more training positions but also an increase in the number of trainees. The demand for psychiatrists exceeds supply, leading to a critical shortage that is preventing us from providing adequate care to Australians in need.
"Right now, the mental health workforce cannot keep up with the needs of the community. The system is fragmented, and more people need help than we can provide. For people whose whole profession is about helping people, that's incredibly demoralising."
The National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2020-2022 report also found that young people experienced the highest prevalence of mental health disorders across all age groups, with mental health disorders surging by more than 50 per cent in the past 15 years among young populations.
"Young Australians, women and those identifying as LGBTQIA+ are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. Federal, state and territory governments must invest in the training and recruitment of more psychiatrists to ensure that our youth and vulnerable populations have access to safe and high-quality mental health care that is timely and effective.
“We know from research that the cheapest and most effective mental health treatment is prevention and early intervention. A delay in treatment increases the chances of an issue becoming more complex, severe, and being harder to treat. We must invest urgently in the workforce to ensure people get the right help at the right time.”
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.
In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.
In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevenPon.
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