11 September 2020

Labor to boost youth mental health care with key digital platform and adolescent trauma centre

| Ian Bushnell
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Mental health awareness

Labor says the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on young people. Photo: File.

ACT Labor has pledged to adopt a pioneering digital platform and establish an adolescent trauma centre as part of its commitment to expanding youth mental health services in the Territory.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said more than half of the young Canberrans that participated in a recent ACT Government survey described their mental health as either ‘fair’ or ‘poor’, with COVID-19 restrictions having a significant effect.

He said a re-elected Labor Government would increase access to resources and timely care for young Canberrans, boosting mental health funding to more than $200 million a year.

This will include delivering Orygen Digital’s ground-breaking youth mental health digital platform MOST, which is specifically designed to empower young people in the management of their mental health and wellbeing.

”The platform will enhance our existing face-to-face services and provide young people a range of online and phone support and online resources,” Mr Barr said.

It will be available to almost 5,000 young people through Headspace and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services.

READ MORE Inquiry finds adolescent mental health services need urgent reform

Orygen says its tools include personalised therapy programs, targeted coping support, social connection and real-time mental health tracking.

Mental health campaigner and Orygen executive director Patrick McGorry told the ABC that the platform was not just another app, but was based on a decade of research and taught young people new coping strategies and delivered therapy online in between face-to-face appointments.

”It helps with waiting list management and also when people are discharged from care,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic safety net and an extra string to the bow of mental health professionals helping young people recover from the challenges of mental ill-health.”

Mr Barr said Labor would also establish an intensive trauma service for adolescents built on the Melaleuca Place model to support the recovery of 13 to 17-year-olds who have experienced trauma, including abuse or neglect.

Melaleuca Place in Dickson has been helping children aged up to 12 since 2012, and has a multi-disciplinary team comprised of clinical psychologists, social workers, an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Labor says it will also develop a strategy to address concerns about the amount of time that children and young people are spending online in front of screens.

”These investments come on top of the significant investments being made to support Canberrans’ mental health during COVID-19,” Mr Barr said.

”Work is already underway to deliver an Adolescent Mental Health Unit and expand our mental health inpatient beds at Canberra Hospital.”

Mr Barr said that a re-elected Labor Government would continue the successful Adolescent Mobile Outreach Service (AMOS), and the Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response (PACER) program which brings together a team of experts to help Canberrans in need of mental health support.

There had been reports that the future of the PACER program was at risk, but the government has been quick to reassure the community that the successful program will be retained.

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