The National Mental Health Commission is calling for equality in health care for people who live with a serious mental illness, as they do not currently receive the same level of care as others.
The Commission’s Chair Allan Fels launched its Equally Well National Consensus Statement today, and said people with a mental illness live between 14-23 years less than the general population.
“We’ve launched Equally Well to inspire a commitment to putting health care for people living with mental illness on an equal footing with people with physical problems,” Professor Fels said.
“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 emphasized 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,” he said.
“Equitable access to health care is a basic human right for all Australians. We need to improve outcomes for people who live with a mental illness and reduce the life expectancy gap.”
Minister for Health Greg Hunt welcomed the release of the Equally Well Statement.
“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.”
Professor Fels explained that Equally Well describes what best practice in mental health care looks like.
“There are six essential elements with actions outlined in Equally Well that provide guidance to health service organisations,” he said.
- A holistic, person centred approach to physical and mental health and wellbeing
- Effective promotion, prevention and early intervention
- Equity of access to all services
- Improving quality of health care
- Care coordination and regional integration across health, mental health and other services and sectors which enable a contributing life
- Monitoring of progress towards improved physical health and wellbeing
“So far 53 organisations, including all state and territory governments have committed to supporting Equally Well and we hope today’s launch will increase awareness and lead others to commit to the Equally Well principles,” Professor Fels said.
“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.”