Mental health expert says innovation needed in struggling sector


Mental illness is on the rise for young Australians according to a new report, and Bupa Mental Health and Wellbeing Innovator Professor Jane Burns says that if we want to improve the nation's mental health, it’s time to think beyond awareness campaigns.

Anxiety and depression are rising according to the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

The annual report found women aged 15-34 had the highest rates of diagnosed depression and anxiety in 2017 at 20.1 per cent, almost doubling the number of cases reported in 2009.

Men in the same age group also reported an increase, from 6.1 per cent to 11.2 per cent in the same period.

In the past decade mental health campaigns have successfully raised awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Professor Jane Burns says we need to shift focus to address the social factors behind the problem.

The latest HILDA report reflects the increasing stressors faced by many Australians. Mental illness impacts a person’s quality of life and their ability to engage in education and employment. The flipside of this is the changing nature of work, financial challenges, disparities in access to care and vulnerability due to discrimination and exclusion – all underpinned by a digitally connected world. These social determinants factor significantly in the mental health of the community. 
Professor Jane Burns, Mental Health & Wellbeing Innovator

The HILDA survey is a national longitudinal study produced annually by the Melbourne Institute. It polls the same group of Australians over their lifetime on family structure, income and health.

With a career in suicide prevention and mental health advocacy spanning more than two decades, Professor Burns has watched the health system struggle to meet the growing demand reflected in the latest HILDA. Her focus has now turned to innovation and partnership in an effort to disrupt existing models of care.

We want people to have choice in how their care is delivered, and access to the right care at the right time, in the right setting. Our work is focused on finding innovative solutions that deliver high quality, value based health care because the current system is failing to meet the needs of our community. 
Professor Jane Burns, Mental Health & Wellbeing Innovator

“The evidence is shouting loud and clear. We need to direct our efforts towards emphasising social connection, meaningful participation, and reducing disparities in access to care.”

“At the same time, the goal is the provision of a high quality value based health care system that understands and meets the complex needs experienced by a person living with mental illness – poverty, isolation, self-stigma, relationship breakdown, and loss of employment," said Professor Burns. 


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