The role of employers in improving mental health will likely be examined following recommendations from a Productivity Commission inquiry, as the Government aims to improve mental health long-term.
Announced in the terms of reference released by the federal government, the inquiry will consider the role of mental health in supporting economic participation, enhancing productivity and economic growth. It will also address how mental illness affects all aspects of a person’s quality of life including physical health, social participation, education, employment and financial status.
According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, “mental health is a key driver of economic participation and productivity in Australia”, with the potential to greatly impact incomes, living standards and social engagement. Improved mental health will not only help to realise economic and social participation and productivity benefits, but will potentially reduce costs to the economy in the long term.
Australian governments provide substantial resources to health services and programs that promote mental health and wellbeing, but Frydenberg said that employers, not-for-profit organisations and carers also play key roles in the mental health of Australians.
“Many businesses are developing initiatives to support and maintain positive mental health outcomes for their employees as well as helping employees with mental ill health continue to participate in, or return to, work.”
The terms of reference contain approaches to be taken by the Commission, including that it should:
- examine the effect of supporting mental health on economic and social participation, productivity and the Australian economy;
- examine how sectors beyond health, including education, employment, social services, housing and justice, can contribute to improving mental health and economic participation and productivity;
- examine the effectiveness of current programs and Initiatives across all jurisdictions to improve mental health, suicide prevention and participation, including by governments, employers and professional groups;
- assess whether the current investment in mental health is delivering value for money and the best outcomes for individuals, their families, society and the economy;
- draw on domestic and international policies and experience, where appropriate; and
- develop a framework to measure and report the outcomes of mental health policies and investment on participation, productivity and economic growth over the long term.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said he has consulted with state and territory mental health ministers as well as the National Mental Health Commission to seek their views on the scope and terms of reference of the inquiry.
“Four million Australians deal with some form of chronic or episodic mental health condition. As well as the individuals affected and people close to them, poor mental health also affects businesses, the hospital system, emergency services and social services.”
According to National Mental Health Commission chair Lucy Brogden the inquiry is welcomed by the Commission, in particular the focus on sectors beyond health and how they contribute to mental health.
“The inquiry is an important step to ensure investment in mental health is efficient and effective, and achieves the best possible outcomes to enable people to live a contributing life.”
Brogden also congratulated fellow National Mental Health Commissioner, Harvey Whiteford who has been appointed Associate Commissioner to the Productivity Commission inquiry.
“Harvey has a wealth of experience in the field and will be a tremendous asset to the inquiry,” Brogden said.
“It’s a great day for mental health and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to improving the lives of all Australians.”
The Commission will take submissions and will hold public consultations, including in regional areas. The inquiry will begin immediately and is due to report to Government within 18 months.