The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that some 45 per cent of Australians aged 16 to 85 have been mentally ill at some point in their lives, and Jill Margo, writing in the Australian Financial Review, says that these kinds of numbers about mental disorders are simply becoming too misleading. Margo interviews psychiatry professor Jon Jureidini, who calls such numbers “absurd,” and puts the actual number closer to 1 to 2 per cent.
“Community surveys show that in a given year, 15 to 20 per cent suffer a level of distress that meets the criteria for a mental disorder,” writes Margo. “However, there is little evidence they need more psychiatric help than seeing their GP or a counsellor, or doing nothing.”
“The problem is that people translate the 15 to 20 per cent in any given year as 15 to 20 per cent at any given time,” Jureidini tells Margo. “But a lot of these episodes are self-limiting and resolve within the year, so the number of people suffering at any given time is significantly lower.” Jureidini adds that, “The assumption is also made that the 15 to 20 per cent have the same sorts of needs and will benefit from the same sorts of interventions as the 1 to 2 per cent… If you want to define every episode of significant distress that someone experiences as an illness, then we all suffer from self-limiting mental illness at some time in our lives.”
The pendulum may have swung too far in mental illness (Australian Financial Review, December 2, 2014)