Professor Patrick McGorry, former Australian of the Year and mental health expert, says the rise in mental health issues among young Australians is a public health emergency. 

As well as costing individual lives and livelihoods, he says the situation poses significant risks to economic productivity and the public health system.

McGorry, who has reportedly communicated his concerns directly to Health Minister Mark Butler, highlights a 50 per cent increase in mental disorders in 16- to 24-year-olds, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Notably, the rate of mental disorders in this age group jumped from 26 per cent in 2007 to 39 per cent in 2021, with women being disproportionately affected.

This increase in mental health issues, according to McGorry, necessitates both a strengthening of mental health reforms and a proactive approach to mitigating contributing factors. 

“There would be an immediate effect for productivity if we tackle this problem,” he says. 

“But there’s a long-term effect which we … really need to get to grips with. Not just employers, but the whole economy.”

Health Minister Mark Butler has acknowledged the seriousness of the issue, citing nearly 40 per cent of young Australians experiencing mental disorders. 

Butler says the government's commitment to reforming the mental health and suicide prevention systems - including a $50 million investment in the Medical Research Future Fund’s childhood mental health research plan and efforts to improve Headspace - is part of that effort.