The Awakening Giant of Mental Health: Equity, Economics and the Electorate

Poster C40, Saturday, October 22, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Le Baron

Patrick McGorry1,2; 1University of Melbourne, Australia, 2Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Victoria, Parkville

When people experience mental illness they face a form of health system apartheid, with quite different levels of access and quality on offer compared to that which the very same people can expect when they develop cancer or other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is a form of self-harm inflicted by society on itself. Many young people on the threshold of productive adult life are consigned to premature death, to the economic scrapheap or, more subtly, to a life of unnecessary suffering and underachievement. Economists have demonstrated that among the NCDs, mental illness contributes the most to reductions in gross domestic product. Most government spending on the mentally ill is not spent on direct care but on the costs of failure, notably welfare benefits and incarceration. This fiscal self-harm is compounded by an annual wave of preventable suicide. The solution is simple. We should insist on the same pattern of care as in other NCDs. Strong prevention strategies, early diagnosis, secure tenure within specialized community care as long as needed, models of care that are attractive, engaging, evidence-creating; and last but not least, equity in medical research funding to bring precision medicine and new discoveries to psychiatry. With up to 50% of humans experiencing mental ill health directly during their lives, and almost everyone being touched indirectly, the giant exists and can be awoken politically. What is needed is sophisticated political organization free of the soft bigotry of low expectations, deployment of social and traditional media, an army of voices from the grass roots.

Topic Area: Service System Development and Reform

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