UPDATE: A Way Forward was released on Thursday, 7 May. View the media release or download the report (PDF 2.2MB).

Lost productivity amongst people with mental illness aged 12–25 costs Australia $6.29 billion per year, according to new data from ReachOut Australia and Ernst and Young (EY). Released today, the findings form part of a forthcoming report – A Way Forward: Equipping Australia’s Mental Health System for the Next Generation – which explores how the system might cost effectively connect more young people to the help they need.

ReachOut Australia’s CEO Jono Nicholas recognises that young Australians are finding it harder than ever to secure and retain employment. For young people with a mental illness, the challenge becomes almost insurmountable.1

“The data clearly shows the urgent need to better support young people’s mental health if we are to prevent losing $780,000 per hour in lost economic productivity,” said Mr Nicholas.

“While lost productivity from absenteeism is obvious, other productivity is lost through presenteeism – where young people go to work but lose productivity as they are unable to perform to their full potential because of illness or medical conditions. These issues cost businesses $631 million each year.”

Tony Johnson CEO of EY Australia says it is vital for corporate Australia to acknowledge and respond to mental illness in the workplace. “It is essential we are committed to creating an inclusive culture that is genuinely supportive of the mental health needs of our workforce.

“Mental illness is a reality that affects all of us in the business sector. The wellbeing of individuals is directly linked to productivity and it is only when the business community acknowledges this, that the economic benefits will be realised,” he said.

With previous work undertaken by ReachOut and EY showing that Australia’s mental health system cannot meet demand without significant change, it is not only the corporate sector that needs to respond to the latest economic findings.2

Mr Nicholas said “Australia continues to be a world leader in the design and delivery of e-mental health services. However, the full benefits will not be realised until they are better integrated with face-to-face services.”

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix a fragmented mental health system – to be more efficient and provide support to greater numbers of people.”

To this end, ReachOut Australia last year welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to have the National Mental Health Commission review the effectiveness and efficiency of existing mental health programmes and services. The Commission’s report was delivered to the Minister in November 2014, and the government’s response to the review is anticipated soon.

“The review is a rare opportunity to ensure a sustainable and robust mental health system for future generations. By integrating effective and scalable services, alongside peer-support interventions, we can deliver help to more people without drastically increasing the cost burden on the system,” said Mr Nicholas.

“By focussing more on prevention, self-help and early intervention, we can also reduce demand placed on clinical services and professionals, enabling them to provide support to those with more complex needs.”

“Early intervention is paramount to reducing the overall impact to our economy, and the cost of mental illness.”

A Way Forward will be released in April 2015. To be advised of its publication, please subscribe to the ReachOut newsletter.


Media enquiries

For interview opportunities or more in-depth information regarding the methodology of the model, please contact:

Jesse Krncevic, 0466 813 066, [email protected]

About ReachOut Australia

ReachOut is Australia’s leading online mental health organisation for young people, providing practical support to help them get through everything from everyday issues to tough times.

Since 1998, ReachOut has worked alongside young people to deliver online tools that address youth mental health and reduce youth suicide. Available anytime and pretty much anywhere, ReachOut receives over 1.85 million visitors a year.

About EY Australia

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, 6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia, December 2014, Commonwealth Government, Canberra.
  2. Hosie, A, Vogl, G, Hoddinott, J, Carden, J & Comeau, Y 2014, Crossroads: Rethinking the Australian Mental Health System, ReachOut Australia and EY, Sydney.



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