Australia is in the grip of a mental health "crisis" that is leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands, former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry says.
In a passionate plea to new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Professor McGorry said if the government doubled the amount it spent on the direct care of people with mental illness, it would "be enough" to resolve the crisis.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, with almost seven people taking their life every day.
The Commonwealth Government currently spends about $10 billion a year on mental health but Professor McGorry said about half of this was spent on welfare payments, which were "the cost of failure, not the cost of direct care".
It's estimated 50 per cent of Australians suffer mental illness at some point in their lives.
Despite the insidious reach of mental illness, Professor McGorry said it was not an issue that had resonated with politicians and the public until recently.
Professor McGorry, a psychiatrist who is a professor of youth mental health at the University of Melbourne and executive director of Oxygen, has lent his support to a new national movement, Australians for Mental Health.
The movement is trying to put mental health on the national agenda and to lobby for mental health to receive as much funding - based on demand - as other health services.
According to Australians for Mental Health, less than seven per cent of health expenditure goes on mental health, despite it accounting for 14 per cent of the country's health burden.
The group is calling for equal investment in mental health as physical health, improved access to mental health services, clear pathways for treatment and support, more early intervention and prevention services, and service integration.