Psychology Melbourne Blog

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Better mental health requires political commitment

Edited by Jill Wright,

In 1980, Denmark had one of the world's highest suicide rates, with 35 in 100,000 inhabitants taking their own lives. In the early 1990s, the country gathered the political will and commitment to focus on improving its system of mental health care.

By 2005, the suicide rate had dropped by roughly two thirds, and last year, Denmark was rated by international academics as the happiest nation on the planet.

Now a study by the American Medical Association reveals just how common mental health issues are in even the happiest country - and how lucky Danes are to have a system that provides them with good professional care.

An article in The Guardian reporting on the study, which looked at data from mental health care treatment in Denmark since 1969, reports that researchers estimated that 38% of Danish women and 32% of Danish men will receive treatment for a mental disorder at some point during their lifetime.

It comments that the survey demonstrates conclusively that "Mental illness is not a figment of over-eager clinicians' imagination; the problem is real and widespread."

And it concludes that "As a society, it is high time we [the UK] faced up to the fact that mental illness is just as routine as physical illness (and assuredly no more shameful), and provided the high-quality, timely care that these conditions require."

Compared with the mental health care available in Denmark, Australians are very poorly looked after by their government, and given the current austerity measures, there is no doubt a good deal of pressure for future cuts.

It is high time that we too faced up to the realities of mental illness, and did more to tackle the problem.

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.