“Help us help you” – Psychiatrists plea to tackle shortages in open letter to Minister

Over 500 psychiatrists across the country have signed an open letter by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) to Minister Mark Butler urging him to address mental health workforce shortages in Australia.

The letter calls for urgent and sustainable investment to grow the psychiatry workforce and meet the increasing community need for mental health care ahead of the upcoming Federal Budget in May.

“Every year, one in five Australians will experience a mental health condition and almost half of Australians will experience mental ill-health in their lifetime,” said Dr Elizabeth Moore, President of the RANZCP. 

“Yet far too many people miss out on life-saving mental health care because help is out of reach. 

“It is either too far away, too expensive or for those in the remotest corners of the country – simply unavailable.

“Ask any psychiatrist in the country and they will tell you that wait lists are piling up and people are turning up in emergency departments with complex presentations of mental conditions.

“Going without help means issues can get more complex, take longer to treat, and more expensive. It puts lives at risk.

This letter comes after a nationwide survey of 1269 psychiatrists revealed that over 90 per cent of psychiatrists believed workforce shortages are risking patient care. 

It also found that 7 in 10 psychiatrists experienced symptoms of burnout in the past three years and 8 in 10 said workforce shortages and under resourcing of the system were contributing to burnout.

“For a workforce who cares deeply about helping people, it is incredibly demoralising to feel like you can’t do the best for your patients.

“With more people needing mental health care than ever, the system is unable to cope, and our most vulnerable people are falling through the cracks.

“And on the other side is a workforce working tirelessly to do the best for their patients while on the verge of burnout.

“We need targeted government funding to attract, train and retain more psychiatrists and mental health workers and distribute them evenly in the country. 

“This must be supported by data that tells us what is needed, where the gaps are, how we can address them and when.

“Psychiatrists from the front-line of this crisis are united in their call for help and ready to be part of the solution.  

“Our call to Minister Butler and the Federal Government is clear - help us help you in providing accessible, affordable and the best possible mental health care to every Australian, regardless of their background or postcode,” said Dr Moore.

Ahead of the Federal Budget in May, the RANZCP is calling on the Federal Government to:


  • Invest $7.06 million to fund the Psychiatry Interest Forum program for a further 6.5 years to attract the next generation of psychiatry trainees.   


  • Invest an additional $24.85 million to expand the Psychiatry Workforce Program to support an additional 45 trainee and training supervisor posts.   
  • Increase Specialist Trainee Program (STP) funding by $5.52 million over three years to fund additional training placements in private hospital settings in 2025-2027 to ease pressure on consultant psychiatrists and enable private hospital beds to be used to appropriate capacity.   
  • Invest $225,000 over three years to support Directors of Training and administration staff to ensure additional training posts have adequate oversight and support.   
  • Introduce a new funding stream to support the establishment of new psychiatry trainee placements in private psychiatric practices.   
  • Invest $6.95 million to extend the Military and Veteran Psychiatry Training Program from 2025 to 2028.  


  • Improve working conditions by:   
  1. Introducing a new psychiatry MBS ‘complex care’ item for assessment, support, and management of people with complex mental health presentations and/or circumstances   
  2. Increasing the MBS rebate for psychiatry services to 100% of the schedule fee from the current 85%, and increase the MBS billing provision for psychiatry trainees, so they can bill at 60% of the consultant psychiatrist rate.   
  • Support collaboration across the mental health workforce by investing $11 million each year for three years to train nurses to become accredited mental health nurses.

You can view RANZCP’s full pre-budget submission here

You can read the open letter here.

You can access our new report here.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Dishi Gahlowt on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.


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