Call for equality in health care for people with mental illness


A new push to promote equality in health care for those with mental illness was launched this week by the National Mental Health Commission (the Commission).

In its new Equally Well National Consensus Statement the Commission argues that Australians living with a serious mental illness do not receive the same level of care as others.

Launching the report, Commission Chair Allan Fels said people with a mental illness live between 14 and 23 years less than the general population.

The National Mental Health Commission is calling for equality in health care for people who live with a serious mental illness.

“Among many other disparities, people with a mental illness are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and four times more likely to die from respiratory disease – this must not continue,” Professor Fels said.

Professor Fels emphasised that poorer physical health in people living with mental illness is not inevitable, nor is poorer mental health for people living with physical health conditions.

“Often physical health needs are “overshadowed” by their mental health condition. This leads to physical conditions being undiagnosed and untreated, which can prove fatal.

“Better screening, early treatment and management of co-existing physical health conditions, will help people with a mental illness - and costs to the national health system will be reduced,” he said.

The statement was welcomed by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“The Commonwealth government recognises that people with a mental illness often have poor outcomes in terms of their physical health and we’re committed to changing this unacceptable situation,” he said.

“As part of our mental health reforms, we’ve begun work with the Primary Health Networks, state and territory governments and service providers to ensure meaningful action is taken to improve the physical health of people with a mental illness and reduce the gap in life expectancy,” Minister Hunt said.


Best practice in mental health care – six essential elements:

  1. A holistic, person centred approach to physical and mental health and wellbeing
  2. Effective promotion, prevention and early intervention
  3. Equity of access to all services
  4. Improving quality of health care
  5. Care coordination and regional integration across health, mental health and other services and sectors which enable a contributing life
  6. Monitoring of progress towards improved physical health and wellbeing

For more information see the Equally Well website.


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