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Saving lives in mental health needs to get physical

Basic health checks will prevent early deaths in those with mental ill-health

  • More people experiencing mental ill-health die from preventable physical conditions than die by suicide - people living with mental ill-health have a life expectancy of 20 years less than the general population. (reference)

  • Leading causes of death amongst those accessing mental health services are heart and lung conditions. (reference)

  • This research indicates that multiple opportunities to prevent the unnecessary and preventable early death of people living with mental ill-health are being missed by health professionals.

  • Only 20% of surveyed mental health consumers indicated that their mental health professionals enquire about their physical health and wellbeing

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Only 1 in 5 people experiencing mental ill-health reported their mental health professional asking about their physical health

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Only 1 in 4 people who are carers or family members reported mental health professional asking about the physical health of the person they support

"Our son died because he did not receive the holistic care that he should have received because of his comorbidity issues.


The mental health system in Australia, as it currently stands, failed my son."

Carer respondent - Review of Physical and Mental Health Care in Australia (Page 31)

Survey Quotes

Quotes from Equally Well Australia

“Suicide prevention is rightly, very high on the national health agenda at the moment. With almost half of all suicide deaths associated with a physical health issue, attending to the physical health needs of people living with mental illness is a powerful, but too often overlooked suicide prevention strategy” - Professor Russell Roberts

“The premature death of  people living with mental illness is an everyday tragedy. Even more so when so many lives could be saved by health professionals simply asking, advising and assisting their clients to access basic physical health checks and treatment. Mental health and allied health professionals don’t need to be medical experts, but as a part of a health system, it is imperative they help connect their clients to medical professionals as appropriate."  - Professor Russell Roberts

Quotes from Lived Experience Australia

"From this research it seems that health professionals are seeing people routinely in their contact with them but are largely delivering a reactive approach to their physical health care. Prevention and early intervention must be focused on more. I know many consumers who wished they had never started smoking. Trying to tackle so many accumulating physical health and lifestyle issues without consistent and diligent support is really difficult. Staying motivated, knowing how to start, believing that its going to make a difference, remaining hopeful, takes a lot of emotional energy." - Professor Sharon Lawn

"People with mental illness are very concerned about their physical health. They need more than just being told once or every now and then by their healthcare providers, that they should exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, eat more vegetables and so forth. Raising the topic is an important first step, then they need tools, support and encouragement that they can apply each day of their lives, and the knowledge that they don't have to do it alone." - Professor Sharon Lawn


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[There are] significant gaps between the various service providers. Family often holds the most accurate history. Why don’t the various health professionals talk to each more and work from the same page.


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It’s very common that once you have a psychiatric diagnosis, any physical complaint you have is either your anxiety/in your head/a manifestation of your true feelings or a side effect of your medication. These are possibilities to consider, sure, but patients know their bodies and deserve to be listened to.


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I have a chronic health issue that affects my mental health. And when my mental health is not good, it takes much more energy to manage my physical health. Sometimes l just don’t do what l need to."


Author Quotes

Key Takeaways

The Equally Well Consensus Statement highlights the need for a holistic, person-centred approach to physical and mental health and wellbeing (p15). This report shows that there is more work to do. 

Health professionals must be supported to incorporate these holistic approaches to ensure a reduction in people experiencing mental ill-health dying from preventable physical illnesses.


Education packages for these professionals need to be developed highlighting opportunities to start conversations and introduce checks for the physical health of people living with mental ill-health.


Health professionals can provide screening, asking, advising, assisting and advocating in the major areas responsible for early death, such as smoking, heart disease, diabetes, cancer screening, and vaccination status.


We need to ensure that ‘diagnostic overshadowing’ by health professionals does not prevent the necessary physical health checks.


We need to remove the stigma felt by consumers and carers when in contact with health professionals and mental health professionals. (See recommendations from National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy)

Up to 80% of those experiencing mental ill-health feel the need to search on Google for physical health information (p6 of the report). A central, trusted repository of resources for better physical health needs to be disseminated for consumers, carers and health professionals to access.

Report Download
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Full Research Report including Data, Findings and Recommendations

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A Summary of the Key Findings and Recommendations

Multimedia Resources

Download Video File >> HERE

Access to multimedia files including captions >> HERE

Related Links

Key Contacts

July 2024 - May 2025

January 2023 - June 2024

This is a Job Description. Briefly describe your specific position, including details about important achievements and milestones. Make sure to include relevant skills and highlights, and don't forget to adjust the timeframe in the subtitle.

This is a Job Description. Briefly describe your specific position, including details about important achievements and milestones. Make sure to include relevant skills and highlights, and don't forget to adjust the timeframe in the subtitle.

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Professor Sharon Lawn
Executive Director,
Lived Experience Australia
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Professor Russell Roberts
National Director,
Equally Well Australia
Key Contacts
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