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The 12 mental health indicators we should be focusing on

The 12 mental health indicators we should be focusing on - Featured Image

Australia spends $7.6 billion on mental health services annually, but experts question whether anyone is getting better and say we need to change our focus.

“Despite 20 years of rhetoric, Australia’s approach to accountability in mental health is overly focused on fulfilling governmental reporting requirements rather than using data to drive reform,” Sebastian Rosenberg, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre (BMC) and co-authors write in this week’s Medical Journal of Australia.

“The existing system is both fragmented and outcome blind. Australia has failed to develop useful local and regional approaches to benchmarking in mental health,” they say.

They believe that hundreds of mental health indicators and reports should be scrapped and data collection should be refocused into 12 indicators.

These “modest but achievable” indicators would provide a more accurate picture of mental health in Australia.

Related: MJA – Frequency and quality of mental health treatment for affective and anxiety disorders among Australian adults

The group suggests the indicators would “emphasise proximal factors (eg, death rates in the 12 months following discharge from a health facility) that can drive reform, rather than distal outcomes that are likely to reflect more complex determinants acting over longer time frames (eg, life expectancy)”.

The indicators suggested are:

Health domain indicators

  • Suicide rate: attempts and completions
  • Death rates after discharge from any mental health facility
  • Proportion of the population receiving mental health care services
  • Prevalence of mental illness

Social domain indicators

  • Employment rates
  • Education and training rates
  • Stable housing
  • Community attitudes towards mental illness

System domain indicators

  • Experience of care
  • Hospital readmission rates
  • Life expectancy
  • Accessing to specialised programs

“All Australian governments should agree now to refocus their reporting priorities around these 12 indicators. Governance of their collection should reside in a body suitably independent from government which can identify gaps and inequity”, they write.

“Local empowerment is the engine of mental health reform, and timely, useful accountability data are the fuel.”

To read the full article, visit the Medical Journal of Australia.

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