Mental illness affects around one in five Australians every year, equating to around 76,000 residents in the ACT. Mental health disorders were responsible for 15% of the total ‘burden of disease’ in the ACT in 2014, higher than the national figure of 13%. We have the highest rate of co-occurrence of some key chronic illnesses among people with mental illness, a suicide rate just below the national average and a relatively low rate of readmission after discharge from a mental health unit.  


Mental health services are delivered by a range of government, private and not for profit organisations in the ACT. In the last few years the Australian mental health system has been the subject of significant policy and funding reform, leading to a state of flux in the sector. 


The ACT Government provides mental health services directly and through partnerships with community organisation in the ACT. Some services are also provided by the Federal Government. The ACT is notable for having significantly higher per capita investment in non-government organisations as compared to other State/Territory governments in Australia. This sits alongside the second highest investment in government provided community mental health services. 


The ACT has seen steady and significant growth in government funding for mental health services over the last decade. This is the context of ongoing national reform impacting the mental health sector, the National Mental Health Commission’s (NMHC) Review of Mental Health Services in Australia (2014) and the government response to this, including the introduction in 2015 of Primary Health Networks (PHN); the trialling and national roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (starting in 2014) and the development of the 5th National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (2017).    


The Mental Health Sector has also seen ACT specific changes including the establishment of an ACT government Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing (2018); the reorganisation of ACT Health into two sections, Canberra Health Services and the ACT Health Directorate (2018); the trial of an ACT Recovery College (2019) and the ongoing development of a Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. 

The Overview Paper – Characteristics of the ACT Mental Health System, Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan Consultation Paper 1 (2018) prepared by the Capital Health Network (the ACT PHN) and ACT Government Health, gives a more detailed understanding of the ACT system. Figures quoted above are taken from this paper.