Is it too late to prevent a decline in mental health care for older Australians?

Roderick G McKay and Brian M Draper
Med J Aust 2012; 197 (2): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11359
Published online: 16 July 2012

Action is required now for future older Australians to receive adequate mental health care

Over the next 20 years, the number of Australians aged 65 years and over is projected to nearly double from around 3.2 million to about 6.2 million people.1 Individuals with lifelong mental illness will be joined by those with new mental disorders, such as mood disorders, late-life psychoses and anxiety disorders that are often associated with physical illness or cognitive decline, including dementia.2,3 Australia is failing to plan for these changes and minimise the associated financial and personal costs this will bring. Males aged over 85 years already have the highest suicide rate in Australia.4 The 2009 Fourth national mental health plan discussed the needs of older people, but without priority actions focused on older people.5 Similarly, the Independent Mental Health Reform Group’s (IMHRG) $2.5 billion “blueprint” for the transformation of mental health services in Australia largely ignored older people.6

  • School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.


We would like to thank Ravi Bhat for his helpful comments in developing this article.

Competing interests:

Roderick McKay is a Clinical Advisor to the Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Office, NSW Health; Chair of the Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists; and a member of the Psychogeriatric Care Expert Reference Group. Brian Draper is Chair of the Psychogeriatric Care Expert Reference Group; board member of the International Psychogeriatric Association; and past Chair of the Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.


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