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The disparity between changes in the prevalence of mental illness and disability support rates in Australia

Clarifying the type of support needed by people with a psychiatric disability must be a priority

One major focus of Australia’s national mental health strategy has been to increase access to treatment for those with common mental disorders, particularly anxiety and depressive disorders. Despite indications that treatment rates have increased in Australia,1 there is little evidence that the population prevalence of these disorders has declined, a phenomenon also reported in other high income countries where increased treatment has been made available.2

Harvey and colleagues also conclude, as reported in this issue of the MJA, that the prevalence of probable common mental disorders among working age Australians has remained stable or even decreased slightly between 2001 and 2014.3 Prevalence was estimated by measuring the levels of psychological distress in respondents to Australian national health surveys, using scores on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) as an indicator of the likelihood of a mental disorder diagnosis. Their finding that the prevalence of probable common mental disorders has not changed is consistent with conclusions drawn from Australian surveys in which the presence of a mental disorder was assessed by interview4 and from the Global Burden of Disease…