Media releases

September 10, 2013

Medibank welcomes chance to work with the new Australian Government on mental health

Australia's largest health insurer and provider of telehealth based mental health services, for organisations such as beyondblue, state government gambling and mental health helplines and the New Zealand Mental Healthline, Medibank, today declared World Suicide Prevention Day a necessary reminder of the importance of working together to improve the mental health of all Australians.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Group Executive of Medibank Health Solutions and a practising psychiatrist, said suicide and mental illness were significant and growing challenges for Australia.

"Medibank-commissioned research estimates at least $28.6 billion in direct expenditure is being spent per year on supporting people with a mental illness in Australia , yet sadly suicide rates continue to grow," he said.

"And disturbingly, research has shown suicide rates for those in regional and remote areas are higher than in our cities, with men in remote areas more than two times more likely to end their lives by suicide than those in metropolitan areas.

"The nature of mental illness issues means patients will often interact frequently with multiple parts of the healthcare and broader social and support payments systems. Yet these very systems are characterised by fragmentation and insufficient coordination. This often leads to a breakdown in service delivery responsiveness when someone is acutely suicidal."

"Responsibilities for service delivery, funding and expenditure are mixed and often overlapping, this represents an opportunity for all stakeholders in mental health to take a fresh approach to addressing mental health support and care.

"While governments since the 1990s deserve credit for lifting the effort, we can do much more to coordinate care for our mentally ill. We look forward to working on this together with the new Australian Government," Dr Cullen said.

Sponsored by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO), 11th World Suicide Prevention Day aims to globally raise awareness of suicide and its prevention, and to reduce the stigma associated with it.

According to the WHO and the latest Burden of Disease Estimation, suicide is a major public health problem and one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people. Nearly one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. A large proportion of people who die by suicide suffer from mental illness.

Dr Cullen is optimistic that Australia has an opportunity to lead the world in end-to-end mental health system redesign to deliver better quality and outcomes at a lower cost. Major system changes are needed, covering detection to diagnosis to treatment to ongoing recovery. Crucially, the system needs to integrate health and non-health support and funding.

"As both a funder and provider of services, Medibank has shown with other health services that it can address systemic issues through the advancement and coordination of healthcare. We can take many of the learnings and apply them to mental health.

"We have no choice but to look at new ways. The current system is unsustainable for taxpayers, other funders and an unbearable strain on the mentally ill and those who support them," Dr Cullen said.

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