CEO Update: There can be nothing more isolating than a mental illness


I was recently reminded by a psychiatrist friend of mine that ‘there can be nothing more isolating than a mental illness.’ And in a world where we’ve all experienced some forms of isolation this year, to varying degrees, it was a timely reminder to stop and focus on just how our mental health ecosystem can continue to support those consumers and their families who may be experiencing alienation, and a very real sense of being alone.

Six months into the pandemic, and looking ahead to at least another six months of uncertainty as a result of COVID-19, it was also a reminder to stop and acknowledge the fantastic work of our sector, and the thousands of people delivering and advocating for increased and improved mental health services on a daily basis.

To acknowledge the hard work and dedication of many who have adapted over this difficult period to help support and advocate for those who are most disadvantaged, and for the increased number of people who are finding themselves in a vulnerable position, some for this first time, as a result of the pandemic.

Coupled with this chance to reflect, was the opportunity this week to present our concerns to a Senate Select Committee on COVID-19

To the Senate Select Committee we highlighted how the pandemic has laid bare the disparities of our world today: disparities in income and wealth, and access to healthcare, along with disparate outcomes based on age, race or gender.

We acknowledged and welcomed the investments the Australian Government, and state and territory governments, have made in our nation’s mental health at this time, especially the introduction of JobKeeper and JobSeeker which have eased elements of the financial stressors for many Australians.

But we also highlighted that more needs to be done to protect the mental health and wellbeing of Australians and respond to those of us who are not ok.

While government funding and campaigns have rightly focused on the general population’s experiences of distress due to COVID-19, Mental Health Australia is particularly concerned about the pandemic exacerbating existing severe and complex mental illness, and the increased impact on carers of people with mental illness and psychosocial disability.

The challenges for people needing mental health care were well documented, well before COVID-19, and will be highlighted further by the impending release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health.

Before COVID-19 we called on the Productivity Commission to recommend tangible structures to ensure consumer- and carer-led design, significant growth of community based mental health services, and plans and actions to address the social determinants of mental ill health.

Now, in the context of a COVID-19 world, we underline our position on those tangible structures needed for national reform and now add a focus on addressing the new financial, and health, stressors as a result of the pandemic.

Our recommendations are to:

  1. Consider extension of the Extend the Coronavirus Supplement at the current rate, and include the Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, and Age Payment in the scheme
  2. Extend JobKeeper at the current rate
  3. Extend the expanded Medicare-subsided telehealth until at least June 2021
  4. Provide funding to ensure provision of services and support for:
    a. people with moderate to severe mental illness, who are not eligible for NDIS but require more support than most mental health services are funded to provide
    b. people with other complex health needs, and
    c. people unable to use/access technology.
  5. Ensure all policy, programs and payments related to COVID-19 are culturally safe, and are communicated to the public in languages other than English.

Furthermore we believe that these measures, along with those already introduced into the system in response to the pandemic would be most effectively leveraged through a longer term mental health reform plan linked with the Productivity Commissions work and backed by the 18 months of consultation and consideration from those in our mental health ecosystem. Those who have been further stretched to capacity over the six months, and will continue to be so over the months ahead.

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley
CEO


Last week our Director of Policy and Research Harry Lovelock was invited to present to the Hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS around workforce, where we highlighted the importance of a sustainable, well-qualified workforce to supporting the choice, control and independence of people with psychosocial disability.

We also called on the Australian Government to strengthen its role in market stewardship and fund an NDIS industry plan to strategically plan and coordinate development of the NDIS psychosocial workforce as well as establishing a National Centre for Mental Health Workforce Development and strengthen national governance and accountability.

To read our full submission you can click here or find out more about the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

On Monday I’ll be receiving a briefing on the new Victorian “Head to Health” hub program and on Tuesday linking with a primary care colleague at Melbourne University. 

On Wednesday I’ll be dialling into a National Disability & Carers Alliance Meeting and meeting with the “Future Generation” team.

On Thursday I’m looking forward to the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance meeting as well as chairing the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Rural and Remote Working Group Meeting.

On Friday I’ll be taking part in the Primary Health Reform Steering Group Meeting and the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce meeting.

The Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (the Framework) is a free, nationally available online resource which allows organisations and individual practitioners to evaluate and enhance their cultural responsiveness. It has been mapped against national standards to help you meet your existing requirements, with access to a wide range of support and resources. 

Our next webinar will be held on Wednesday 14 October where we will be exploring Module 4: Building a Culturally Responsive Mental Health Workforce. Watch this space for registration details closer to the date.


COVID-19 has put everyone under pressure, so it’s more important than ever that we keep our minds healthy. Beyond Blue has created a series of resources in a range of languages to help people in Australia understand how to find support and feel comfortable talking about their experiences.

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Millions of Australians will continue to receive medical care and support in their own homes with the Morrison Government investing more than $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021. Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended, as well as further investments in PPE. 

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Health professionals in drought and bushfire-affected rural communities have access to extra resources to help them deal with the mental health fallout from these events. CRANAplus, the peak professional body for Australia’s remote and isolated health workforce, has received Commonwealth funding to provide a suite of webinars, podcasts, and tailor-made workshops for those working on the frontline, to keep themselves and their communities resilient. 

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Orygen has received a $33 million grant from the United States’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop models for predicting outcomes for young people who are at imminent and high risk of psychotic illness. Orygen’s executive director, Professor Patrick McGorry, said the grant was, to the best of his knowledge, the largest competitive grant that had ever been awarded by the NIH to Australian-led medical research.

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Mental Health Minister Roger Cook says the McGowan Government has officially opened Western Australia’s State-wide Recovery College for mental health and wellbeing. The college will provide courses and education throughout Western Australia, co-developed by people with lived experience of mental health and alcohol and other drug issues, to support others with their recovery.

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The Morrison Government’s planned cuts to the Coronavirus Supplement for people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and parenting payments would see the economy lose $31.3 billion and 145,000 full-time jobs over the next two years, finds analysis by Deloitte Access Economics commissioned by The Australian Council of Social Service. 

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Minster for Health, Greg Hunt, says from Monday 14 September 2020, Victorians will have access to additional mental health support with 15 new dedicated mental health clinics opening to the public. 

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The Mental Health Coalition of South Australia welcomes news that South Australia’s new Urgent Mental Health Care Centre will be delivered by local community mental health service provider NEAMI with RI International. This much needed centre is the first of its kind in Australia while similar models have been operating for a number of years in the United States.

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Stride
Stride is Australia’s longest-established mental health charity providing specialist mental health services to people with mental illness & complex needs since 1907. Our mission is simple. We provide services to support people at all stages of their mental health journey, from early intervention services, designed to support children, young people and adults at-risk of developing mental health conditions, to services for people with ongoing and complex needs. Wherever people are in their journey, we work with them to create the life they want.


Consumers of Mental Health WA (CoMHWA)
CoMHWA is Western Australia’s peak body by, and for, people with a lived experience of mental health distress. Our core purpose is to strengthen and advance the voice, leadership and expertise of people with a lived experience of mental health issues and/or distress. We educate and raise awareness on consumer rights, promote peer support and the peer workforce, lead change with consumers and promote and support recovery and wellbeing with and for consumers.
 

Patient safety and continuity of care is extremely important, particularly for those patients who have chronic and complex diseases or conditions, vulnerable populations, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. There are mounting concerns that Australians are not maintaining their regular doctor visits for existing chronic conditions and/or putting off seeing their doctor to get a test, investigation, or immunisation due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or burdening the health system.

We all play an important role in ensuring our friends, neighbours, co-workers, and relatives stay safe and healthy. So remind them that when it comes to your health, #DontWaitMate!

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Every child deserves the right to play! Central to playgroup are families, and Playgroup Australia wants to ensure that every playgroup meets your unique and wonderful needs, abilities, wants and more. The NDIS has awarded Playgroup Australia with funding to create the next generation of inclusive, all abilities play, but they can’t do it without your experience and support. 

If you or your child (aged 0-5 years) are living with disability, Playgroup Australia would love to hear from you. 

To get started they have one simple question for you: What is your favourite way to play at home, in therapy or at playgroup? Share your favourite activities and help create the next generation of play at playgroup. 

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This Mental Health Month, join a panel of experts to talk about Health Justice Partnerships, a unique and innovative solution to supporting people with co-occurring mental health and legal needs.

Produced through a collaboration between Mental Health Victoria, Health Justice Australia, Mental Health Legal Centre and First Step, this webinar will introduce you to the concept of Health Justice Partnerships, demonstrate how they work in practice with the aid of practical examples, and provide advice on how your service can benefit from a tailored partnership approach.

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The Blue Tie Ball is back! Join batyr from your home for a night to remember.

This year has been a challenge for all of us, after postponing their much loved in-person event, batyr are stoked to have the opportunity to bring the community together online. Join batyr to show your support for youth mental health and spread some positivity!

SAVE THE DATE
batyr’s Blue Tie Ball: Virtual Homecoming
Saturday night, 31st October 2020
Join the live stream from anywhere! 
Theme: Homecoming

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Prevention United presents a webinar on “Mental health and education in the post-COVID era” with partners the Australian Association of Psychologists (Inc), Parents Victoria, and Victorian Student Representative Council. This panel discussion will explore how Australia’s education system will need to evolve to promote and protect the mental health and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers in the wake of the challenges created by COVID-19. You will hear from student, parent, and mental health representatives who will also respond to audience questions.

Date: Monday 28 September 
Time: 7-8pm

Register now

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