Youth mental health key to Australia’s economic success: Productivity Commission submission

The mental health of Australia’s young people is key to the nation’s productivity and economic success, stated the Orygen/headspace joint submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health.

“The experience and impact of mental ill-health during this life stage can derail key developmental milestones and significantly increase the risk of poor health, social, education and employment outcomes,” the submission stated.

“The human and economic impact then lasts for decades, through what should be the prime years of productivity and economic participation.” Young people aged 10-24 are the most likely of all age groups to experience the onset of mental-ill health, said headspace CEO Jason Trethowan.

“If you look at the total number of Australians to experience mental ill-health throughout their lifetime, half of them will have will have experienced onset by the time they’re just 14-years-old,” Mr Trethowan said.

“Three-quarters will have done so by the time they’re 24.”

Orygen and headspace have made 17 recommendations aimed at improving young people’s mental health, supporting social and economic participation, and enhancing productivity and economic growth.

The recommendations span five key priority areas:

1. Increase access to effective mental health services and supports for young people across all stages of mental ill-health

2. Improve education and workforce participation for young people with mental illness

3. Reduce self-harm and suicide-related behaviours in young people

4. Build a youth mental health workforce to meet the current and future needs

5. Drive improvements through research, data, and outcome monitoring

Orygen executive director Professor Patrick McGorry said although Australia had made encouraging progress in improving the mental health of young people, there remained an urgent need to widen and deepen the mental health supports available to this vulnerable group.

“Young people with more moderate to severe and complex mental health issues are slipping through the gaps in care,” said Professor McGorry.

“Described as the ‘missing middle’ these young people need more specialised, intensive and extended care than is currently available within primary care. They are often seriously unwell, but are not yet acutely ill enough or considered suicidal enough to reach the high threshold for access to state-funded acute and continuing care.”

To read the full submission click here

Jason Trethowan, CEO at headspace and Professor Patrick McGorry, Executive Director at Orygen are available for interview to discuss the submission.

For media enquiries please contact: Stephanie Fonti, headspace Communications Coordinator on 0413 025 385 or