Mental Health Commission WA
All Western Australians want a good life shared with family and friends and with
opportunities to get involved and make a contribution across all aspects of life.
Good mental health is a cornerstone to build and maintain a good life. Yet one in five
Western Australians experiences mental health problems each year and nearly half the
population will experience a mental health problem at least once in their lifetime. This
means that every Western Australian will be affected by poor mental health at a personal
level or as a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague.
Most people with mental health problems and/or mental illness experience one-off or
intermittent occurrences of poor mental health and are able to sustain family, work and
community lives with support from primary health care services. Around two percent of
the population, however, experience recurring mental illness which significantly affects
their quality of life. Specialist mental health services are available to provide treatment
through clinical support and to facilitate longer term support from primary health services
and significant others including family, carers, friends, employers and communities.
A small number of people experience lifelong mental illness that significantly impairs
every facet of their lives, requiring periods of hospitalisation and ongoing support from
community mental health services. For some, mental illness is coupled with additional
challenges including alcohol and drug problems, disability, interactions with the criminal
justice system and physical health issues. The stigma associated with mental health
problems and/or mental illness can result in shame and isolation for some individuals
experiencing a mental health problem and/or a mental illness and their families and
Reference: Mental Health 2020: Making it Personal and Everybody’s Business, Reforming WA’s Mental Health Service. Mental Health Commission WA. Page 2.
Fly-in Fly-out workers
The mining industry in Western Australia requires a large number of people to fly from their hometown to mine sites or other remote locations on a cyclical basis. While these jobs pay well, they require long shifts and separation from family and friends, often for weeks at a time. This lifestyle impacts not only on workers but also on families who are left without one parent on a regular basis. Both workers and their spouses are considered at risk of developing mental health problems. Fly-in Fly-out workers are also considered to be at greater risk of drug and alcohol misuse.
Reference: Mental Health 2020: Making it Personal and Everybody’s Business, Reforming WA’s Mental Health Service. Mental Health Commission WA. Page 30.
Like the nation as a whole, Western Australia faces many challenges in relation to mental health. Key examples are:
• On average, 240 Western Australians take their own lives through suicide each year, well above the average annual road toll of 191 people.
• Our young people are particularly vulnerable to developing mental health problems and/or mental illness, often combined with misusing drugs and alcohol – 75 percent of all severe mental illness begins before the age of 24 years.
• Surveys conducted in the Magistrates’ Court found that over half the defendants reported experiencing mental health problems.
• It is estimated that 43 percent of people in specialised mental health hospital beds could be discharged if housing and other appropriate support services were available.
• Aboriginal people comprise five percent of people in specialised mental health inpatient
Reference: Mental Health 2020: Making it Personal and Everybody’s Business, Reforming WA’s Mental Health Service. Mental Health Commission WA. Page 2 – 3.
Key insights on the current mental health system in WA
During 2014 and 2020, the number of referrals to community mental health treatment services have grown by 70.1 per cent.
The acceptance rate of these referrals for metropolitan community mental health treatment services reduced from one in three in 2014 to only one in five in 2020.
During 2014 and 2020, 75 per cent of acceptances for community mental health services in metropolitan Perth were for those aged 12–17-years.
During 2014 and 2020 the number of inpatient admissions with a principal diagnosis of mental health have grown by 79.5 per cent.
Every day in 2020, there was an average of 6.9 admissions of 0-17-year-olds to hospitals across WA with a principal diagnosis of mental health.
During 2017 and 2020 there has been a 168 per cent increase in eating disorders admissions to CAHS inpatient units and a 200 per cent increase to WA Country Health Services (WACHS) hospitals.
During 2014 and 2020 the number of attendances to Emergency Departments for a mental health reason have grown by 64.9 per cent.
Every day in 2020, there was an average of 24.5 presentations by 0-17-year-olds to an Emergency Department across WA for a mental health reason.
During 2017 and 2020, the number of admissions to an emergency department regarding a suicide attempt and suicide risk has increased by 50 per cent.
During 2015 and 2019, 31 per cent of school pupils who accessed a specialist mental health service had an attendance rate below 60 per cent.
During 2015 and 2019, one in five children who access mental health services also had contact with police, of whom 51 per cent were prosecuted.
During 2009 and 2018, 60 per cent of children who died by suicide had been subject to a child protection report.
Reference: (2022). Final report – Ministerial Taskforce into Public Mental Health Services for Infants, Children and Adolescents aged 0 – 18 years in WA. (Page 13).