Mental illness in men costs $3b, says report

May 30, 2012


“We must intervene early and invest smarter” … the Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler. Photo: Quentin Jones

MENTAL ILLNESS in young men costs the Australian economy more than $3 billion per annum, a new report to be launched by the minister for mental health today reveals.

The cost, which equates to $387,000 lost each hour, is largely due to the unfilled potential of men who drop out of work or education while suffering their problems in silence, experts say.

The federal government covers about 31 per cent of the annual cost of mental illness in men and boys aged between 12 and 25 through direct health and welfare costs, says the report, Counting the Cost: The Impact of Young Men’s Mental Health on the Australian Economy.

The rest is borne by individuals and businesses through reduced earning potential, lost productivity over time and other costs.

The minister for mental health and ageing, Mark Butler, said the report showed the tremendous scope of the mental health challenge facing Australia.

“The clear message from Counting the Cost is that we must intervene early and invest smarter to reduce the cost and impacts associated with young men’s mental illness. We stand to gain from both a happier, healthier population and increased productivity,” he said.

The chief executive of the Inspire Foundation, Jonathan Nicholas, said men were often resistant to getting help, and by the time they did they were in crisis. “The human cost of this is very significant, more young men die by suicide than on our roads,” he said. “But what we are also showing [with this report] is there is also a very significant economic toll.”

The report, produced by the Inspire Foundation and Ernst & Young with the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, found Australia loses more than 9 million working days a year to young men with mental illness and on average they have an additional 9.5 days out of role per year.

Mr Nicholas said the findings should not discourage employers from hiring people with a mental illness, but rather highlight to them the importance of early intervention.

“This is likely to happen to one in four of us over our lifetimes โ€ฆ it’s actually an issue in your workplace right now,” he said.

The report recommends men be supported to receive higher levels of education, that men with mental illness be helped to remain in work, and that current policy responses and investments in mental health be evaluated.

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