Governments have been urged to invest more money in mental health, to bridge the widening gap between patients and the services offered.
Although the new national mental health plan provided a boost of $4 billion over four years, it still fell short of the escalating expenditure, said John Mendoza, the chief executive officer of the Mental Health Council of Australia.
Mr. Mendoza said that only 40 per cent of mental illness was being treated due to decades of under investment. He was speaking on the eve of the meeting of state and federal leaders.
"There is no one arguing that there is not an enormous gap between the provision of services as compared with the prevalence of mental illness," he said.
According to the president of the Australian Medical Association, Mukesh Haikerwal, the states had failed to extract benefit out of the Commonwealth's $1.9 billion funding commitment, leaving only 7 per cent of the public health budget to mental health expenditure, when it should have been 12 per cent.
The Premier, Morris Iemma, said that without changes in workforce there would be a mental health staff shortage. He accused the Federal Government of diluting the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, which urged that Medicare payments be extended, beyond doctors, to other health professionals, to eliminate chronic shortage of staff.
Mr. Iemma has accused the Government of underestimating the number of doctors and nurses needed in the future.
He warned that without an effective change, the chances of sustaining a mental health workforce to meet future demands was "grim".