The hours of care provided by mental health carers is the equivalent to the work of 173,000 fulltime mental health support workers, a new report has found.
The University of Queensland report said it would cost governments $13.2 billion to replace these carers.
Professor Harvey Whiteford, from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, said mental health carers provided 208 million hours of care nationally in 2015.
“The dollar value of this support far exceeds current spending on mental health services, which in 2014-2015 was around $8.5 billion,” he said.
The report found mental health carers usually provide support to a partner or child, who most frequently have common mental illnesses like depression or anxiety.
The majority of the nation’s 240,000 mental health carers were women, and the biggest age group were those in their working years.
Whiteford said a concerning finding surrounded the number of young people providing support to family members, with 15 per cent aged under 25 and some as young as eight.
“For all carers, but young people in particular, taking on such responsibilities can have negative effects on their own mental health and their ability to remain engaged with education or work,” he said.
Lead author Sandra Diminic said only a quarter of primary carers receive Carer Payment, and two-thirds don’t receive any assistance at all.
The report’s authors said: “Carers are to a large extent the ‘hidden workforce’ in the Australian health system and this report sends a clear message: we need to recognise, appropriately train and support them".Do you have an idea for a story?
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