The cost of mental illness

A new report from the Productivity Commission estimates mental ill-health and suicide is costing Australia up to $180 billion a year, or almost $500 million a day.

The Productivity Commission draft report on mental health was published on October 31.

Margo Lydon, chief executive of SuperFriend, said the report highlights many ways workplaces can support better mental health for employees.

"The Federal Government launched the enquiry into mental health to look at really broadly areas outside health that could help Australia and the economy from a productivity perspective if we were to improve the mental health of Australians," Lydon explained.

Lydon said investment in mental health would have benefits for the Australian economy broadly.

"This report is advocating for long term investment in mental health care to lead to better outcomes for Australians," she said.

The life insurance industry was made mention of in the Productivity Commission report.

"The life insurance industry does increasingly great work in helping people recover from mental illness and get back to work and that is largely absent in what I've read of the report," Lydon said.

"The report calls for insurance practices around mental health including how we communicate the information we provide, how we profile risks and blanket exclusions to be reviewed."

These findings could lead to developments in the life insurance industry that change the ways customers with mental health conditions can expect to be treated by group insurers and other life insurers.

"There's also a review by ASIC to work with the life insurance industry on the precedent of paying for mental health treatment," Lydon said.

"The life insurance industry has been advocating for the ability to pay for mental health treatment because we know that with early intervention the chance of recovery and of returning to work is far increased."

She added that it is important life insurers' staff are well trained in interacting with people with mental illnesses, and supported to do that work properly.

But, Lydon explained, the report has take-home messages for every employer.

"We've got to realise that the vast majority of people living with mental health conditions are workers," she said.

Read more: AustraliaProductivity CommissionAustraliansMargo LydonFederal GovernmentSuperFriend
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