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Mental health gap analysis reveals massive shortages

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
19 May 2024

The NSW Government’s gap analysis of community mental health services has revealed a gaping workforce shortage and lack of accessible services, particularly for First Nations people.

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • NSW spent the second lowest amount on community mental health services per capita amongst all Australian states and territories in 2020-21, $24 million below the national average
  • There was a 21% increase in community mental health patients in the past decade yet funding for those services only increased by 13% in the same period
  • Community mental health full time equivalent staff per 100,000 population declined from 54.1 to 48.9 in NSW over the past decade
  • NSW had the second lowest number of community mental health staff amongst all states and territories in 2020-21
  • There was an estimated national mental health workforce shortfall of 32% in 2022 which is expected to grow to 42% by 2030 if current shortages are not addressed
  • 58,000 people in NSW with severe and complex mental illness are estimated to be missing out on psychosocial support services
  • Aboriginal people experience a higher rate of mental health issues than non-Aboriginal people - deaths from suicide are almost twice as high, hospitalisation rates for intentional self-harm are three times as high, and rates of high or very high psychological distress rates are 2.4 times higher
  • The rate of Aboriginal people presenting to emergency departments for mental health issues are four times higher than non-Aboriginal people, and have risen consecutively over the last four years.


Quotes attributable to Dr Amanda Cohn, Greens NSW spokesperson for Health including Mental Health and former GP:

“NSW should be a leader, but we are a laggard on mental health services.

“It's clear from this data and the inquiry I'm chairing into community mental health services that the mental health system is so under-resourced that it's reactive and crisis-driven rather than able to provide assertive continuous care to people with complex and chronic illnesses.

“People should not have to reach a crisis point before getting emergency help. The NSW Government needs to stop dragging its feet and start investing properly in preventive and community-based mental health services.

“I have deep concern for people’s health and safety while NSW addresses the dire community mental health workforce gaps. Pay and working conditions for nurses and doctors working in public mental health services are well below other states and the private sector.

“This report should only be the start of identifying the gaps in mental health service delivery in NSW. The data we need is locating the workforce gaps in terms of where they are geographically as well as which population groups have the greatest need of care - this data is not adequately aggregated or reported by NSW Health.

“One is left to wonder why this report, dated December 2023, was released five months later during the chaotic news week of the federal budget release. It’s also curious that it comes out mere days after I drafted the final report for the NSW mental health inquiry which could have benefited significantly from the addition of its data,” said Dr Cohn.


Media contact: Josh Appleton - [email protected]

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
19 May 2024
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Mental health gap analysis reveals massive shortages

The NSW Government’s gap analysis of community mental health services has revealed a gaping workforce shortage and lack of accessible services, particularly for First Nations people.