Three recent developments of outstanding international significance have occurred in psychiatry. First, The global burden of disease report,1 which showed that depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder were among the leading causes of worldwide disease disability and burden, has had major ramifications for government prioritisation of health services. Second, significant research in Alzheimer's disease has revealed the specific molecular defects underpinning the rare familial early-onset form of this condition. Third, major advances in pharmacotherapy have led to dramatic shifts in treatment, particularly for depression and schizophrenia, but also for dementia and bipolar disorder. Nationally, a major epidemiological study — the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being of Adults2 — confirmed the high prevalence and disability of mental illnesses, with depression and anxiety accounting for considerable morbidity. These international and national findings prompted the Federal Government to establish the National Depression Initiative "beyondblue".
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