Credit: UTSA Today

Following the new data released by SANE Australia revealing 90 per cent of the mentally ill who also suffered from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, the government has been called to bring in a Medicare Benefits Scheme item number to promote health checks by GPs on people with mental illness.

Last week, the Mental Health Council of Australia reported that more than a dozen groups had written to the prime minister, Kevin Rudd to call for more funds for mental health in the federal budget.

People have been falling through the gaps due to missed opportunities to prevent or detect signs of chronic illnesses in the mentally ill population, said Barbara Hocking, chief executive of SANE Australia.

Ms Hocking likens physical healthcare and mental healthcare as two sides of the same coin.

We need a Medicare Benefits Scheme item for physical health checks for people affected by mental illness, so that monitoring and promotion of their physical health becomes standard treatment, she said.

Gerry Naughtin, chief executive of Mind Australia backed her statements and said, primary care services offered by GPs, were crucial in the improvement of the quality of life of the mentally ill.

Mr Naughtin said, Mentally ill people often have significant lower life expectancy and higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the general population.

The critical element in the broader approach to tackling the issue, he says, lies in the hands of the GPs.