by Grant J Everett
Early intervention in mental health could save Australia tens of billions of dollars a year
According to the Herald Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing, we spend $200 billion a year as a result of mental health issues, including things like sick days and reduced productivity. $200 billion is equivalent to 12 percent of our economy’s entire annual output.
The index takes into account many social factors that are not included in traditional economic analyses. For example it attempts to place a dollar value on the lower levels of wellbeing experienced by people with mental health issues.
Mental health issues are “under-appreciated” as an economic problem according to Dr Nicholas Gruen, Chair of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, and author of the Herald Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing.
In highlighting the overall cost to society of mental health issues, the index could be taken as a strong encouragement to invest in ‘early intervention’ methods. For example, investing in the mental health of young people . (See the Panorama story “Want to reduce unemployment? Invest in youth mental health” In September 2016)
Educating people about the dangers of abusing alcohol and other drugs educating people about how to spot the early warning signs of developing mental health issues in themselves, their families and friends and teaching the basic tenets of mental health first aid are known to have great worth.
Preventive measures like these can have a profound effect Think about the cumulative benefit to society if the negative effects of mental health issues could be prevented, reduced or reversed through early action. As it stands, many Australians experience interruptions in their emotional and intellectual development.
Think of the value of more people being empowered to finish high school and pursue further education, to gain a job and keep it. It would reduce the cost of the Disability Support Pension, minimise the amount of time people spend in hospitals, reduce people’s levels of disability. Early intervention can provide us with a chance to develop and mature properly, and profoundly affect the way we can connect with other people and develop and maintain relationships.
“The wellbeing cost of mental health hits $200 billion,” M Wade, September 10th, 2016