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New ACT program to connect young people with severe mental illnesses to services

By Glynis Quinlan 2 June 2018 9

Clinical Director of CAHMS, Dr Jeff Cubis, with ACT Mental Health Minister Shane Rattenbury at the announcement of the new program. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government is looking to fill one of the gaps in its mental health services by establishing a program to reach out and overcome barriers in order to connect 12-18-year-olds experiencing severe mental illnesses with needed services.

In Tuesday’s ACT Budget, funding of $2.158 million will be allocated over two years to establish the Assertive Outreach Program which is for recovery-focused and community-based services to treat 12-18-year-olds who are experiencing severe, high prevalence mental illness.

With 10-20 per cent of children and adolescents experiencing some form of mental disorder, health workers are concerned that often getting young people to connect with mental health services can be a major struggle.

Clinical Director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS), Dr Jeff Cubis said that “current workers spend a lot of time trying to help parents get the adolescent engaged or the school to get the person to present.”

“For lots of good reasons, adolescents are reluctant and fearful or resentful of that sort of approach unless they know the person, they’ve met them and they’ve got some connection and this is really what this team is about.”

ACT Mental Health Minister Shane Rattenbury said the Assertive Outreach Program will involve connecting people who might otherwise miss out.

“It works in a number of ways but the team don’t rely on people coming to an appointment at the office,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“They will go to a family home, they may provide help with a transition from an important setting back to the family home or for young people who are in especially difficult circumstances – perhaps homeless or couch surfing with their friends – potentially tracking them down where they are to make sure that they get access to the services.”

Mental health funding

The Assertive Outreach Program will work to connect young people with mental health services who might otherwise miss out.

Mr Rattenbury said that mental illness can be severe for anyone, but it can be particularly damaging for children and teenagers if left untreated.

“Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable stage where young people are going through significant neurological development, and where mental illness can have a major impact,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“The research is very clear that early intervention is critically important in reducing the impact of mental illness on a young person’s social, educational and vocational future, and there is a broader benefit for our community in reducing the personal and social burden of mental illness.

“Around one-third of Canberrans will need mental health care at some stage in their lives. As our population grows, our local services and facilities must expand to ensure that people can access the right care when they need it.

“Our intention for the program is to try to avoid hospital admission or readmission where possible, providing a clear path to recovery for young people.”

Dr Cubis said that five staff will be employed under the program, which will begin as soon as they are recruited.

The upcoming ACT Budget will also support a new Project Officer to develop a contemporary, evidence-based and recovery-focused model of care for the delivery of integrated mental health services for young adults (18-25 years old).

The funding announcements follow on from recent news that the Government will also allocate $22.8 million to establish 24-hour supported accommodation for people with complex mental health needs.

What do you think of plans for the new Assertive Outreach Program? Given the high need, what other initiatives need to be implemented to assist young people experiencing mental illness? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below?


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9 Responses to
New ACT program to connect young people with severe mental illnesses to services
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John Moulis 10:07 am 04 Jun 18

I can’t reply on Facebook as I’ve been banned again. It’s a long story… But Jane, I think the reason why there is such a high instance of mental illness among young people nowadays is that there is now a lot more awareness about it and no more stigma about “loony bins” and “padded cells”.

I’ve already stated on this site that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. When I was a kid there wasn’t even a name for it, people just said I was not the full quid.

One of the downsides of the greater awareness of mental health issues is that more people are willing to recognise they have a problem and to seek health. The road to acceptance is a two-way street but by the same token to do nothing at all is a lonely highway.

Josephine Jacobs 8:57 am 03 Jun 18

My daughter is schizophrenic, caused through drug usage whilst doing her doctorate. She’s 45 years old now. The last 20 years have been horrendous. We find there are very few qualified and properly trained mental health carers able to “ read” their patient. Mentally ill patients cover up as much as they can by lying! They get very skilled at putting up a “ normal” front. So quite of they’re discharged from hospital as staff think they’re ready! And they are not! The psyche nurses and carers who do and can “read” their patient and/or is willing to listen and be advised by families, are rare and rather wonderful. Unfortunately staff seems to move around a lot. There’s no continuity in treatment plans. The ever changing psychiatrists and mental health visitors are not conducive to stabilising the patient. An another unfortunate thing happened way back, it was decided to call mentally ill people CONSUMERS! How rude!! They are ill and are PATIENTS! In the psyche ward patients needing something, are left standing by a locked door, that has a double glasses window, and completely ignored by the nurses inside the office. They are not even acknowledged! They are left to feel degraded as well as anxious. That THEY don’t matter. Just because their behaviour ( when off their meds) can be rude and violent. Well that’s the illness. Any other patient with a different illness is still treated with care and respect. Attitudes need to be changed. Psyche nurses need protection, I understand that and why, but we need more of them. Drug education in schools needs to be stepped up. Vulnerable people like those with mental illnesses need more protection against drug dealers and people preying on them. There are gangs around preying on the mentally ill. Befriending them for a few weeks, then robbing them and worse. We tried 20 years ago to get better services etc. we feel not a lot has changed. The psychiatric hospital is always full to capacity. There are long waiting lists to get in as well as for rehabs. Families can’t cope. We aren’t trained to deal with violent or suicidal family members. Money gets promised for better programs and then gets taken away again. Politicians aren’t worried about our kids. Because if this happens within their families they can have them treated Privately!

    Marilyn Griffith 10:42 pm 03 Jun 18

    It’s not fair Josephine politicians need to realise these people need the care and not just given another pill to take

    Josephine Jacobs 11:54 pm 03 Jun 18

    Marilyn Griffith she’s back in hospital after they released her suddenly on Friday! She still had a canula in her arm and heart monitor patches on her body! Totally psychotic and asked to be taken in today. She’s in a room under guard in ED as the psyche ward is full! So some poor person will be released tomorrow ready or not. But if she shows a glimpse of “ normalcy “ they’ll release her again! Hopeless. She says she wants to kill herself!

    Marilyn Griffith 6:59 am 04 Jun 18

    Josephine Jacobs oh Josephine I’m so sorry you must be so worried and at your wits end please take care of yourself you are all she has God keep you in his care xxx

    Josephine Jacobs 9:55 am 04 Jun 18

    Marilyn Griffith still waiting for a bed and trying to escape! We’ve been told not to worry. They’re taking care of her!

    Marilyn Griffith 10:11 am 04 Jun 18

    Josephine Jacobs hope so xx

Jane Skillicorn 12:01 am 03 Jun 18

As a matter of URGENCY how about investing in an investigation of the CAUSES of such unacceptable levels of mental illnesses in our youngsters in Canberra? PLEASE. These figures are simply horrendous!!! Even better, ALSO look at what is happening with primary school aged children and ensure they are so cared for that they do not need mental health services in the first place. Thank you.

Natalie Bice 9:39 pm 02 Jun 18

What about more funding to cut wait times for services?? Having a 6 -12 week wait time to access services when your teenager is suicidal is just not good enough.

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