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Primed for prevention

28 October 2020
A consensus statement on the prevention of mental disorders
The Matilda Centre has partnered with fellow leading mental health organisations in Australia to form the Prevention Coalition and release a joint consensus statement highlighting the need to increase investment and action in the prevention of mental disorders.

Mental disorders are not inevitable, and there are a range of evidence-based and cost-effective programs that can be implemented to prevent or delay the onset of many common conditions. However, at present less than 1% of the mental health budget is spent on primary prevention, and so many existing prevention programs are not able to be delivered well, or to scale.

The report Primed for prevention: A consensus statement on the prevention of mental disorders highlights the need to increase action and investment in this often-overlooked aspect of mental health.


Mental disorders are distressing and disruptive. These conditions impact people’s emotions and day-to-day functioning and can interfere with study, work, personal relationships, and life in general.

Professor Maree Teesson AC

Professor Maree Teesson

But as Professor Maree Teesson Director of the Matilda Centre notes "mental and substance use problems are not inevitable" and Professor Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute adds that there is evidence to support this - "scientific trials of prevention programs and interventions show that common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can be prevented. We need to scale up prevention programs, put them into practice so that we yield the benefits quickly."

Mental and substance use problems are not inevitable.
Professor Maree Teesson

The Consensus Statement draws on research evidence to outline what can be done to prevent depression, anxiety, and other conditions from occurring. It highlights six priority areas for action that will make a big difference to mental health and wellbeing across the Australian population:

Priority areas

  • 1

    Support parents to help their children thrive
  • 2

    Build children and adolescents’ social supports and protective life skills
  • 3

    Support young people and adults to look after their mental health as well as their physical health
  • 4

    Create mentally healthy workplaces
  • 5

    Address the social determinants of mental health
  • 6

    Strengthen the research evidence and improve data collection

The Consensus Statement notes that a focus on prevention is more important than ever as we continue to battle through the social and economic challenges brought on by COVID-19. Prevention can help to avert of wave of mental ill-health that might otherwise occur.

The Consensus Statement’s authors acknowledge and welcome recent measures that Federal, State and Territory Governments have put in place to enhance frontline mental healthcare services in response to the rise in mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enhancing supports and services for people living with a mental disorder, and for their families and carers, is essential. Mental health funding is 7.6% of total government health expenditure despite accounting for 12% of the burden of disability and premature death in Australia.

However, prevention and treatment are complementary endeavours and it’s important that we take a two-pronged approach. The consensus statement therefore advocates for increased funding for prevention as well as for frontline mental healthcare services rather than just the latter.

Professor Teesson emphasised "Effective, scalable prevention is critical in making population level improvements in Australians’ mental health and the Matilda Centre is proud to support the consensus statement on the prevention of mental disorders."

Effective, scalable prevention is critical in making population level improvements in Australians’ mental health and the Matilda Centre is proud to support the consensus statement on the prevention of mental disorders.
Professor Maree Teesson

The Prevention Coalition in Mental Health draws on research evidence to outline six priority areas for action that will make a big difference to the mental health and wellbeing of the Australian population and contribute to the prevention of common mental disorders.

For further information on the Prevention Consensus Statement go to preventionunited.org.au/consensus-statement.

Prevention Coalition in Mental Health

Prevention Coalition in Mental Health
Prevention Consensus Statement : A joint statement highlighting the need to increase investment and action in the prevention of mental disorders.
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Caitlin Ward

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