Mental health has been overlooked in Australia for so long it's now costing the economy half-a-billion dollars per day.
A new report released by the Productivity Commission on Thursday revealed mental health and suicide is costing Australia $180 billion annually.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone says "the enormous burden that is mental health has been sadly overlooked for too long".
"Government needs to get in there and fund it appropriately," Dr Bartone told AAP.
But he warned the commission's proposed national funding pool could create a "bureaucratic, red tape process" and wanted to see more detail behind the proposal.
Health Minister Greg Hunt met with state and territory health ministers in Perth on Thursday to propose a "once-in-a-generation transformation" of the Australian mental health system.
Mr Hunt told media the federal government wanted to have a single, unified mental health system that was easy to understand and access.
The commission estimated the $500 million a day cost is because treatment and services are not meeting community expectations.
It says one-in-five Australians experience mental ill-health with this putting an estimated $180 billion per year hole in the economy.
The commission says it conservatively estimates mental health and suicide cost the economy $43 billion to $51 billion per year in lost productivity and health system costs.
But there was an additional $130 billion cost associated with diminished health and shorter life expectancies.
The commission has recommended five reform areas, including improving preventative and early intervention measures for mental health and suicide.
It's also recommended state and territory governments pool their money together to improve care, with the commission preferring a "fundamental rebuild" of mental health funding arrangements.
Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen said his party would hold the government to account if there was not substantial reform in the sector.
But he said he didn't doubt the government's good intentions.
The report also recommended governments work to close critical gaps in mental healthcare, with more beds in mental health wards and support for people 24/7 if needed.
Long-term housing solutions were also needed for people with severe mental conditions, as were job pathways to help reconnect people with mental illness to employment.
Commission chair Michael Brennan said mental health was treated as an "add-on" to the physical health system and this had to change.
"While full-scale change will take a long time, there are many changes that governments can start now," Mr Brennan said.
"For example, follow-up after attempted suicide is proven to save lives and could be started immediately."
The report has also detailed statistics on the breadth of Australia's mental health problem, with 3.9 million Australians having a mental illness.
One-in-eight GP visits are related to mental health issues with 1.2 million Australians accessing a Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy program.
But one-in-three attended up to two sessions before dropping out because of out-of-pocket costs.
The rate of mental health presentations at hospital emergency departments had jumped 70 per cent over the past 15 years.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were twice as likely to die by suicide, with indigenous youth 14 times more likely to die by suicide than non-indigenous youth.
One-in-seven people aged four to 17 have a mental illness.
A Year nine student with a mental illness is potentially up to five years behind a student without one.
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Australian Associated Press