31 March 2022

Mental health and suicide prevention services to benefit from $38 million boost

| Lottie Twyford
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Person speaking with a counsellor

The funding announcement comes as demand for mental health support is expected to increase. Photo: File.

More than $38 million will be allocated to mental health and suicide prevention support services following a major bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and ACT governments.

Under the “landmark” agreement, the federal government will invest $25.2 million and the ACT $12.9 million over the next five years.

It’s expected that even as lockdowns become a thing of the past, demand for mental health services will continue to increase.

ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said the reality is that many people in the community are right now feeling distressed or anxious following the challenges of the pandemic and natural disasters such as the Black Summer bushfires, the devastating hailstorm and recent storm events.

“Canberrans should be able to access quality care and support for their mental health needs. The agreement … will see more early intervention and prevention mental health services across Canberra so more people can stay well in our community,” Ms Davidson said.

Emma Davidson speaking at a media conference

ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said many Canberrans are experiencing heightened anxiety due to the events of the last few years – including the pandemic and natural disasters. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The government says the funding will assist people in the group known as the “missing middle” – including young people, adults, expectant parents, and those in the early stages of an eating disorder. These are people whose needs are not met by current mental health services because they fall in between inpatient hospital services and community-based support.

Adults and older Australians will benefit from $8.3 million, which will continue the Head to Health adult mental health services that opened in the ACT in October last year.

More than 2500 children and their families will be assisted by an additional $9 million to go towards initiatives in line with the National Head to Health Kids Hub model.

A $9.5 million investment will enhance the existing headspace centre to increase access to multidisciplinary youth mental health services in the ACT. It will be used to establish a multidisciplinary early intervention service to support young people at risk of developing mental health concerns.

A further $6 million will establish universal aftercare services in the ACT to support people following a suicide attempt or suicidal crisis while $2.8 million will be used to enhance perinatal mental health screening.

Finally, $1.9 million will deliver a community-based early intervention service for eating disorders to promote help-seeking behaviour and early intervention treatment for people in the early stages of developing an eating disorder and those with an eating disorder of low to moderate severity.

No provider has yet been chosen to deliver the eating disorder support service.

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In addition, the federal and territory governments have promised to build and support the mental health and suicide prevention workforce, including the peer workforce.

This includes the ACT adopting and implementing a tool to support consistent assessment and referral integration and establish greater integration across services. Both governments will also continue to work on greater data sharing and improve the integration of referral pathways.

The bilateral agreement with the ACT is part of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement, which is now in effect.

If you need support, you can access the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time online or via 1800 512 348.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467.

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The Psychology Board of Australia make the process of becoming a professional psychologist extremely difficult, a six year process (four year degree plus two years masters or higher i.e. PhD) or the fifth (Masters of Professional Psychology plus one year internship). Agreed that you do not want to be treated by someone inexperienced, but it would seem that this is done to closely control the numbers of practicing psychologists which in turn limits the work of other mental health professionals. I know a student who started psychology at ANU and after one year was convinced that some of these psychologists (granted they were research focussed) were in need of a psychologist themselves. She has since graduated with two degrees one of which is the practical use of psychology in criminology.

I read somewhere that Australia has only 40% of the mental health professionals that it currently needs, as evidenced by the wait time for psychologists here in the ACT, three months +!

It is great to see more money and attention going to this area but it does nothing to address the federal issue that there simply aren’t enough mental health professionals out there.

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