An extra million minds - mental health research sets lofty goal

Every year, one in four Australians will experience some kind of mental ill health - that's more than 3.8 million people aged between 16 and 85. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability and premature death in Australia.  

The Federal Government has funded research into mental health, with the mission of supporting an extra one million people with new approaches to mental health prevention, detection, diagnosis, support and recovery.  

Recently mental health experts were appointed to the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission to guide future initiatives and evaluate work already underway.  

This panel includes professors across the health sector, but vitally it also includes a lived experience advisor. Harnessing the power of lived experience, to better understand and inform support will deliver more meaningful support.  

While there is growing awareness of mental health, particularly the experience of depression and anxiety, for many people who live with a complex mental health issue the experience can still be isolating and stigmatising.  

There is certainly the need for greater research to develop evidence-based, best-practice approaches. But it's also vital that it is informed by the community, with genuine co-design helping guide research to where support and resources are needed.  

People living with severe and complex mental health conditions experience poorer life outcomes. People with severe mental illness die up to 23 years earlier than the general population, are much more likely to attempt suicide, and face significant challenges in their daily life, from maintaining employment to securing safe and stable housing. 

If people do not receive the psychosocial support they need early in illness, there is an increased likelihood of prolonged distress and lifelong disability. The flow on effects of this puts more pressure on our health system, as people have an increased dependence on social services, increased risk of unemployment, homelessness and interactions with police, justice and corrections. 

Yet, despite this the Productivity Commission estimates at least 154,000 people miss out on vital psychosocial supports in the community. 

A people-focused, recovery-led mental health system, supported by peer workers is key to addressing this significant gap within the system. Community-managed organisations, like Flourish Australia, can support people in a range of activities - from socialising, work, accomodation, daily chores, and rehabilitation. These supports coexist alongside specialist mental health supports and encourage a holistic view of mental health and wellbeing.  

The Million Minds Mission first three priority areas will be child and youth mental health, eating disorders and the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As research progresses the Mission will continue to target critical and emerging priorities.

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