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For most Australians, general practice is the first port of call when they access Australia’s healthcare system, and their general practitioner (GP) is usually the first person consulted about their mental health care. An estimated 13% of GP encounters in 2015–161 were related to mental health, and GPs and other medical practitioners provided more than 2.7 million Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)-subsidised mental health services.2 In The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ (RACGP’s) General Practice: Health of the Nation 2018 report, GPs reported that psychological issues (eg depression, mood disorders, anxiety) are the most common health issues managed.3

The high prevalence and burden of disease associated with mental illness and psychosocial disability means that GPs need to be able to detect and manage mental illness, and must play a central role in providing evidence-based, patient-centred care to people living with mental illness.

Over the past decade, the work undertaken by the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) has increased GPs’ skills and knowledge in detecting, diagnosing and managing mental illnesses. By upholding high standards of general practice training, the GPMHSC continues to ensure that Australians receive optimal mental health care.

As well as providing care, it is essential that GPs are able to access and use other primary mental health care services effectively and efficiently, if the needs of all Australians are to be met. This includes the appropriate use of services delivered by Primary Health Networks (PHNs). It also means ensuring consumers and carers are able to access resources to assist in recovery.

GPs provide continuity of care throughout a person’s illness and recovery, beginning with early detection of mental health concerns through to managing chronic and complex care. GPs have a distinct advantage because they provide whole-person care, ensuring less risk of a person with mental illness ‘falling through the cracks’ of the healthcare and disability support system.



  1. Britt H, Miller GC, Henderson J, et al. General practice activity in Australia 2015–16. General practice series no. 40. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2016.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Mental health services in Australia. Canberra: AIHW, 2018. Available at [Accessed 28 May 2018].
  3. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. General Practice: Health of the Nation. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2018. Available at Publications/Health-of-the-nation-2018-report.PDF [Accessed 21 February 2019].


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