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Wednesday, January 20, 2021
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Need for early intervention identified in ACT mental health sector

A recent Productivity Commission report into the mental health system has found close to half of Australian adults have met the diagnostic criteria for mental illness at some point in their lives.

The report made 24 recommendations for the mental health system, many centred on early intervention tactics and a person-centred mental health system.

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT acting CEO, Leith Felton-Taylor, said early intervention was exceptionally important when it comes to mental health.

“That is something we very strongly promote all the time whenever we have the opportunity; we really advocate strongly that more investment should go into early intervention,” she said.

“Early intervention means early in people’s lives, early in a time when someone might be becoming unwell, and particularly for mental illness, early in a time they might be relapsing.”

The report, released to the public on 16 November, examined the impact of mental health on a person’s ability to participate in the community and workplace, and the greater effects on our economy and productivity.

Recently-appointed Mental Health Minister in the ACT, Emma Davidson MLA, said the Territory would take on early intervention as its main goal.

“This year has been particularly difficult. Our community has faced challenges to their mental health and wellbeing, the effects of which we will see for years to come,” she said.

“Providing support as early as possible, in the course of our lives and during an episode of mental ill-health, supports sustainable mental health and wellbeing across our community.

“My focus is not only on increasing the capacity of mental health facilities in Canberra, but also on improving early intervention and prevention responses so that people can be supported to remain in the community where possible – no matter what challenges our community is facing.”

The report also puts a heavy emphasis on a person-centred mental health system, which Mental Health Community Coalition ACT advocacy and policy officer, Inge Saris, said is exceptionally important.

“I think all States and Territories struggle with that in the way organisations are assessed and how that does not align with the needs of the person seeking help,” she said.

“A person who is ill doesn’t care where that help comes from, so we need to be better at that service integration and supporting the person with the help when they need it and how they need it,” she said.

The ACT Legislative Assembly’s 10th Parliamentary and Governing Agreement has set out strategies such as improving programs that target and support young people’s mental health, however Ms Felton-Taylor said more money can always been invested in early intervention.

“We are doing some things in that area and I think there is goodwill in the ACT Government and through the sector to do more, but it’s still something we need to direct more investment into,” she said. 

“It’s hard because you have the immediate need for people already unwell and the budget needed as opposed to intervening now to prevent future illness.”

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts