Mental health advocacy group Black Dog Institute has announced the formation of a new methodology to measure national mental health.


The new Black Dog Index has been formed in response to international recognition that traditional economic-based measures do not sufficiently reflect the mental health of a country’s population.


In forming the new index, the Institute contacted 1,200 adults from all walks of life around the country and asked them to provide a score out of 10 for a series of questions about their mental health and personal circumstances, varying from income, martial status, education and political views.


The results were then compiled into an overall “Happiness” score out of 100, which can be measured over time and linked with other measures such as unemployment and financial pressures.


According to NEwspoll Chief Martin O’Shannessey, the happiest people tended to be older, married, tertiary educated and earning over $90,000 a year.


Conversely, the study found that depression was often strongly connected with divorce.


Black Dog Institute Director, Professor Helen Christensen, initiated the project with the ultimate aim of determining what factors were involved with people feeling happy or unhappy.


“The good news is that the inaugural Black Dog Index score is quite high at 77. This means that overall we are quite a happy bunch of people,” says Prof Christensen.


“Worryingly, the index also showed that four percent of respondents were actively troubled by suicidal thoughts. This translates to approximately half a million people across the country. With suicide now overtaking motor vehicle accidents as the major cause of death in young people, these are results we need to take very seriously.”


Professor Christensen said that recent research, together with the compiled data, showed that actively engaging with depressed people about their suicidal thoughts can be beneficial, encouraging them to seek treatment.


“It’s my hope that new programs like the Black Dog Index will improve public awareness about suicide and help those people who feel life isn’t worth living to contact Lifeline, their GP or a friend or family member to talk about it because help is available,” Professor Christensen said.