This post deals with sexual assault and suicide and might be triggering for some readers.
It came as no surprise to me to read this week's Productivity Commission report showing that mental illness and suicide costs our economy $220 billion a year.
This year alone, mental health services and associated lost wages have personally cost me almost $15,000.
Watch: How to talk to people with anxiety. Post continues below.
The average Australian makes just under $68,000 a year. How many of us can afford to spend 21 per cent of our wages on mental health services? I know I certainly couldn’t, and we have been forced to rely on the generosity of family members to pay expenses like rent and car registration.
This total does not even take into account the indirect costs to my employer for my extended sick and annual leave, along with lost productivity for the months I spent working through mental illness.
It does not take into account the time my husband and other family members have taken off work to support me.
As a country, we do need to focus on the overarching $200 billion economic figure, but when the government looks at the report recommendations, I hope they will also consider the hidden cost to families like mine across Australia who are shouldering the burden of this mental health crisis.
As the report puts it: "Australia's current mental health system is not comprehensive and fails to provide the treatment and support that people who need it legitimately expect".
After my experience this year, I couldn’t agree more.
In March 2020, COVID-19 was slowly locking down our country, and I had the bad luck to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
A routine operation to remove some pre-cancerous cells revived a teenage trauma. When I was 16, I drank too much at a friend’s house, passed out, and another teenager sexually assaulted me while I was unconscious.
I largely repressed this experience until my operation in March, when my chickens came home to roost. From that point, I was spending roughly $80 a month on medication. Adding to that, I was seeing a psychiatrist – who played the dual role of clinician and therapist – for weekly and bi-weekly sessions over seven months. After government subsidy, the out-of-pocket cost of her sessions was roughly $4,200.
As I saw no improvement in my condition, I also tried alternative options like yoga therapy ($330). You’ll try just about anything when you’re desperate.
Since my diagnosis in March, I have spent $2,700 on private health insurance and $125 on additional psychiatric services. In August, my mental health deteriorated to a point where I was no longer able to work. By October, I was suicidal and a family member rightly engaged the local public mental health team, who came out to do a welfare check.