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Although approximately 80% of the population enjoy 'good' mental health free of mental disorders, it has been estimated that mental disorders caused 13% of the total disease burden in 1996. In particular, mental disorders were estimated to be responsible for about 30% of the disability burden. For males, substance use disorders (from alcohol or other drugs) accounted for 33% of this burden while for females, affective disorders such as depression were more significant and accounted for 39% of the non-fatal disease burden (AIHW 2000a).
After completion of the initial National Mental Health Strategy (which covered 1992 to 1998), the Second National Mental Health Plan was endorsed in July 1998 as the framework for ongoing activity. The Plan is to operate over a five-year period from 1998-99 to 2002-03 and is a joint initiative of Commonwealth Government and the State and Territory Governments. The National Depression Initiative (being carried forward by an independent public company called 'beyondblue') will build on priorities identified in the National Action Plan for Depression. Commonwealth funding for the initiative is being significantly enhanced by financial contributions from State and Territory Governments (Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care 2001a).
The 1997 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing of Adults showed that the prevalence of drug use disorders declined steadily with age. For instance, 12% of males and 4% of females aged between 18 and 24 years had a drug use disorder compared to only 1% of males and females in the 45 to 54 year age group (graph 9.22). This was similar to the pattern for the prevalence of harmful alcohol use and dependence, although alcohol use disorders occurred around twice as often as other drug use disorders. Married people were less likely to have alcohol or other drug disorders than those who were never married.