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Mental Health Issues in Australia and the Increasing Role of the GP

October 9, 2019 0 Comments

General Practitioners are often the first point of contact for people seeking help with a mental health issue. A steady increase in the rate of mental health consultations is suggesting more help from the GPs is needed.

Mental Health Issues in Australia and the Increasing Role of the GP

Increasing mental health issues

The role of GPs

Increasing mental health issues

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2017-2018’s National Health Survey, anxiety and depression continued to rise from the previous periods. 

The survey reported the increased rates of mental illness in different areas. For 2017-18, around 13.1% of Australian population (3.2 million) suffered from an anxiety-related condition, this is an increase of approximately 11.2% since 2015. Among those, 10.4% were reported to have feelings of depression, which also increased by 2.3%. 

Source: EY Sweeney, RACGP GP Survey, May 2019.

Source: EY Sweeney, RACGP GP Survey, May 2019.

Also, roughly one in eight adults (13%) experienced high levels of psychological distress in 2017–18, which increased by 1.3% from 2015.

Furthermore, Mental health was at the top of the list for chronic conditions in 2017–18. It is estimated that 20.1% of Australians were having a mental or behavioural condition in 2017–18 (approximately 4.8 million people).

The health of the nation report published by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) this year also supports findings with results that show mental health issues have replaced physical conditions as one of the most common GP consultations.

1174 college members were asked to respond to the question: “When thinking about your patients overall, what are the three most common ailments you deal with?”.

65% of the survey respondents said that psychological problems were one of the three most-common issues  they managed, last year this was 62% of respondents. Musculoskeletal and Respiratory issues followed as the second and third most common health problems that GPs deal with.


Interestingly, depression, anxiety and mood disorders are more common now than coughs and colds in a lot of medical centres. And one of the key findings suggested that female doctors are far more likely to manage psychological-related health issues than male doctors.

There are severe implications to mental health issues. Victorian BetterHealth Channel reported up to 10% of people affected by mental health issues were risking self-harm. And this is not the only result of poor mental health problems, the National Survey of Mental Heath and Wellbeing estimated that a majority of people tend to experience issues and conditions from disorders for up to 12 months at a time. 

The role of GPs

GPs can provide ongoing mental health care in different ways such as support, assessment, ongoing care and referrals to other mental health services if required. The patients’ needs, treatment and the referrals should also be recorded in their mental health care plans. 

GPs assist to prepare a Mental Health Plan that helps patients with their overall treatment and support. 

When a referral happens for psychological therapy with an appropriately qualified health professional, this may largely covered by Medicare. It is also important to note that while treating the mental health symptoms, the doctors need to ensure the physical health of a person with a mental illness is not neglected.

Serious doctor listening to patient explaining her painful in his office

GPs are also encouraged to use e-mental health. Information on the internet and other related technologies can deliver timely and specific mental health information and services . The use of online interventions is one of the major applications of e-mental health and this can help immensely in the prevention stages. 

Even though patients often turn to GPs for help with their mental conditions, more collaboration within the healthcare industry could better assist patients with urgent issues. 


How could GPs improve their role in treating and diagnosing mental health issues? We would love to hear from you.

Please contact one of our friendly team of consultants Today and let us tell you what GP jobs are available around Australia.

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