Annual spending on mental health has topped $28.6 billion, according to a new report released by health insurance company Medibank.

Medibank’s estimates are over four times the latest figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), which recently put the cost at $6.3 billion per year.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Group Executive of Medibank Health Solutions and a practising psychiatrist, explains further: “The critical issue with mental illness treatment in Australia is that individuals with mental health needs are not receiving adequate support because the system is fragmented and uncoordinated.

“People fall between the gaps of the healthcare system and the social services systems, and even between the various components of the social services system such as housing and income support.”

“We need to address these gaps urgently. While governments since the 1990s deserve credit for lifting the effort, we can do much more to coordinate care for our mentally ill.”

The findings come after national mental health advocacy group, beyondblue, found that over 2 million Australians suffer from anxiety.

“The current system is complex, fragmented and very hard for users to navigate, especially as they have mental health issues, which can make planning and decision making very difficult,” beyondblue’s CEO, Kate Carnell said.

Historically, specialist mental health support has been provided by state governments in Australia, with housing support provided by different departments and programs like income support and employment services provided by the federal government. This meant that people with mental illness have to grapple with multiple layers of bureaucracy in order to get the support they need.

“Australia urgently needs reform to make it easier for people to get the information, services and support they need in a coordinated and timely fashion,” Ms Carnell says.