Overview

From 2015-18, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) was commissioned by Mind Australia to undertake a comprehensive research program to address evidence gaps in understanding the roles and needs of Australia’s unpaid carers for people with mental illness. The objectives were to:

  1. Describe mental health carers’ characteristics and caring roles.
  2. Estimate the economic value of informal mental health care.
  3. Review current government spending on mental health carers.
  4. Identify mental health carers’ use of and unmet needs for support services.
  5. Explore factors associated with mental health carers’ employment which might be targets to improve their labour force participation.

To address the research aims, the QCMHR team analysed national surveys, administrative data on carer services, designed and conducted a national survey of mental health carers, and produced an economic model. QCMHR researchers worked in partnership with Mind Australia, project advisory groups and carer support organisations to share the project results in summary reports and presentations.

Reports

Two resulting reports The economic value of informal mental health caring in Australia (2017) and Understanding factors associated with Australian mental health carers’ employment (2018) explore the situation of one of Australia’s most significant ‘hidden workforces’. The 2017 report revealed the enormous economic value of unpaid carers to the Australian community. In 2015 there were approximately 2.7 million informal health carers, of which an estimated 10% were mental health carers. The total annual replacement cost for the unpaid support provided by mental health carers alone would have been $13.2 billion. The second report highlighted the significant disadvantages carers face in accessing formal employment. It was found that 42% of adult mental health carers are not in the workforce compared to only 24% of adults without caring responsibilities, despite many wanting to work. Young mental health carers were also disadvantaged, with fewer engaged in study or work compared to other young people.

As a result of these findings, Mind Australia’s coalition campaign Caring Fairly is advocating for fairer government policies to improve the situations of health carers, as they take on a vital and indispensable role in the Australian community.

Other Projects

Evaluation of the Queensland Mental Health Community Support Services (MH-CSS) Program

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Analysis and Reporting of the National Outcomes and Casemix Collection (NOCC)

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Mapping mental health services in Tasmania

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