In response to the release of the latest Australian Healthcare Index figures the Australian Psychological Society (APS) once again calls on the Federal Government to urgently intervene and provide more support for Australia’s mental health sector.
The index, which surveyed 11,000 Australians nationwide, found that almost two thirds of patients were waiting more than 12 weeks to receive care. Almost one quarter (24%) of respondents have experienced a decline in their mental health over the past 6 months.
APS CEO Dr Zena Burgess noted that the findings confirmed long-standing APS concerns.
“Psychologists have been warning for a long time that the barriers to care are far too high, and the psychology workforce is simply not supported well enough to meet demand.
“This is especially apparent as inflation continues to soar. The cost of living is putting immense financial and emotional pressure on everyday Australians, and they are likely to be seeking additional psychological care because of these pressures.
“Timely access to mental health care will ensure patients’ mental health will not deteriorate further and they get the help they need when they need it.
“To reduce wait times and make treatment more accessible and more affordable we urgently need to ensure private health insurance is affordable, and boost the psychology workforce,” she said.
A recent APS member survey found that 88% of psychologists had seen an increase in demand for their services, equalling the previous record increase set in June 2021.
The survey also found that 1 in 3 (33%) psychologists were unable to take new clients, up from 1 in 5 (22%) in June 2021. Before the pandemic, only 1 in 100 psychologists were not taking new clients.
Dr Burgess said urgent action was needed to bolster the workforce and support the mental health of future generations.
“The time for urgent action is now. The longer people go without care, the more we all pay for it down the track.
“The Federal Government is meeting only 35% of its workforce target for psychology, and 25% of the existing workforce is aged 55 years or older. This is the largest workforce shortfall of any mental health profession.
“We are calling on the Federal Government to adopt our 10-point plan to ensure the workforce is strengthened and future-proofed to meet the needs of Australians into the future.
“The effects of the pandemic on the mental health of our nation will continue for years to come. We must invest now to prevent a lost generation and ensure communities across Australia can recover and thrive,” she said.