3 April 2017

Mental health service use among people living in NSW who use medications for mental health, 2011

In 2015, the Commission asked people who experience mental illness, their carers and clinicians to share their experiences with the use of mental health-related medications. Our report, Medication and Mental Illness: Perspectives, contains the main themes that emerged. You can also watch videos featuring consumers and health care professionals speaking about medication on our YouTube channel.

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One major theme was that many people want medication to be prescribed at the same time as other treatment services or only after all other options have been tried and haven’t worked.

NSW data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Mental Health Services-Census Data Integration project shows that consumers in NSW are using and combining medication and other treatment options, such as seeing a doctor, psychologist or other health professional regularly.

Of people who access government-subsidised forms of mental health care, half access medications only. Around one in five access both services and medications, with the remainder accessing services only.

The Commission believes that while medications can play an important role in recovery, the best approach is one that includes a variety of social and psychological supports as well. Medication does not necessarily have to be the first-line treatment. Or, in the words of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, in their submission to the Commission, medication “should be provided in conjunction with appropriate, evidence-based psycho-social treatments to ensure holistic consumer care.

The data integration project also shows that individuals taking some kinds of medication were more likely to use other services as well. Around half of people receiving antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, used other mental health services, compared to three quarters of people taking antipsychotics.

Among people receiving antidepressant medications: nearly half receive antidepressants only. In comparison, about 1 in 4 also see a GP, 1 in 9 see a psychiatrist, 1 in 11 see a non-clinical psychologist, 1 in 22 see a clinical psychologist, and only 1 in 125 see an allied heath professional.

among people receiving anti psychotic medication about 1 in 4 see a psychiatrist, a similar proportion see a GP, or receive antipsychotics only. 1 in 11 see a non-clinical psychologist, 1 in 20 see a clinical psychologist, and only 1 in 111 see an allied heath professional.

among people receiving anti anxiety medication: nearly half receive anti-anxiety medication only. In comparison, about 1 in 6 also see a GP, 1 in 15 see a psychiatrist, 1 in 19 see a non-clinical psychologist, 1 in 43 see a clinical psychologist, and only 1 in 200 see an allied heath professional.

Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data. Data were produced using the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Medicare Benefits Schedule Data, and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Data. The data excludes persons not counted in the Census, services accessed outside of the MBS, and prescriptions accessed outside of the PBS. For a full description of data and exclusions please see ABS Explanatory Notes.

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Last updated: 30 June 2017