Mental health often hits the headlines for the wrong reasons, so this week’s announcement by the Federal Minister for Health of funding for mental health services is most welcome.
The people most likely to benefit from this funding, expected to be in the order of $170 million for WA over three years, are ordinary Western Australians, the one in five who, from time to time, may experience challenges with their mental health and who are likely to benefit from short to medium term support.
This might include the high school student being bullied, the middle-aged farmer struggling to cope with rising debt, or the office worker living with chronic pain. All of these are everyday realities which challenge our mental wellbeing and contribute to increasing levels of emotional and psychological distress in individual, families and communities.
The focus of WA Primary Health Alliance, which operates the state’s three Primary Health Networks (PHNs) which will receive this funding, will be on ensuring more Western Australians have access to primary mental healthcare services that treat common disorders, particularly anxiety and depression.
The funding will provide continued support for headspace centres, psychological services for hard to reach groups, suicide prevention activities, community-based mental health nurses and mental health support for older Australians.
Other positive news within this announcement is the confirmation of longer-term funding for PHNs, with a three-year agreement providing a level of certainty that will flow on to the mental health system, service providers, consumers and carers.
It is also an endorsement of the effectiveness, responsiveness and innovative nature of the PHNs whose teams on the ground across metropolitan Perth and regional WA are working in partnership with local communities and a range of local stakeholders to develop appropriate solutions to their health needs.
PHN activities are backed up by planning, informed by comprehensive population health needs assessments, which helps to ensure funds are targeted towards areas of greatest need.
WA Primary Health Alliance is working hard with key partners including state government and hospitals to improve the planning, funding and coordination of services and reduce the fragmentation that we know exists in the current system.
This will see the development of regional mental health plans which will help to further identify service gaps, shared priorities across the health system, and opportunities to make better use of available resources between all tiers of government. The voice of community, consumers, family and carers will also be essential to shaping these plans.
This mental health funding will allow the PHNs to continue to look at effective ways of increasing access to services, particularly for people who are currently missing out.
The increasing availability of options such as online, telephone or face to face counselling help people to access a service that is both appropriate for their condition and convenient to their personal circumstances. This helps to reduce the costs and treatment burden imposed on individuals when they engage with effective care.
For the one in five of us who have, or will have, a mental health issue in our lives, it may be overwhelming to work out where to start looking when you need support. It is important to understand that there is no shame in asking for help, and your GP is often the best place to start a conversation about your mental health.
If you need help
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636