The publishing of recent data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, indicates the steady rise in the distribution of mental health related prescriptions within the country.

While over the course of the past 10 years the relevant data has fluctuated slightly, overall, there has been a stable increase with upwards of an additional 3 million prescriptions distributed per year since 2013 to now.

University of Wollongong Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Psychology, Caitlin Liddelow, said that in recent years the destigmatisation of mental health credits part of the rise in the allocation of mental health related prescriptions within Australia.

“There’s been a reduction in stigma we have seen over the years with regards to mental health problems, so I think a lot more people are going to seek help,” Ms Liddelow said.

While the stigma of mental health has decreased, allowing for individuals to feel more open to seeking professional help, simultaneously, the cost-of-living crisis has occurred, making space for additional reasons that tributes the rise.

“Recently the cost-of-living crisis has contributed to more people getting prescriptions from a GP rather than going to see a psychologist or a therapist, as it’s more affordable to get a continuing prescription than it is to go and seek psychological help,” Ms Liddelow said.

“The optimal treatment is medication coupled with the therapy, but I think sometimes people just want the medication because it’s cheaper and easier to deal with, it’s also faster.”

Ms Liddelow said that there is concern that doctors are distributing prescriptions excessively.

“There is this general notion that doctors may be overprescribing,” Ms Liddelow said.

Across all age groups, from 12 to 74 years, in the data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there has been a consistent rise in the distribution of the relevant prescriptions.

Ms Liddelow said some GP’s may be interested in providing that quick fix for patients rather than alternatively seeking out the underlying root cause.

“Some GP’s may be more focussed on providing a quick fix to get it over and done with rather than working with the individual in more depth, to work out with the individual what the underlying problem is,” Ms Liddelow said.

“Doctors tend to focus on health rather than the prevention, with a mindset of how can we deal with the problem now, rather than how can we prevent it.”