New mapping project will use ambulance data to reveal Australia’s mental illness hot-spots

9 October 2014

A world-first mapping system that will pinpoint areas of high male self-harm and suicide, as well as hot spots for men with poor mental health, was unveiled as part of National Mental Health Week.

The National Ambulance Mental Health Project, which is funded by beyondblue with donations from the Movember Foundation, will collect data from incidents attended by paramedics while tracking patients’ journeys through the health system.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said the information will be used to help reduce Australia’s suicide rate, which currently sees about five Australian males take their lives every day.

“Incidents such as suicide attempts, overdoses, panic attacks or call-outs relating to mental illness such as anxiety or depression will be mapped to identify when, where and how men present in crisis,” she said. “This will give Australians unprecedented information about the mental health of men and identify opportunities to help them in a way that was previously impossible. It will reveal the profiles of men paramedics attend, where they are and why they need help. By tracking their progress through the health system, we can also see which men get appropriate treatment, which men don’t and why not. There is a desperate need to link more Australian men with mental health treatment and this will help us to do that.

“This project will show us how to engage with men early and ensure they receive appropriate support. For example, if we identify that a large proportion of men are ringing ambulances for heart attacks when they are actually panic attacks we can establish ways to link them to the appropriate services. This will give us our best chance yet to ensure all Australian men and young people get timely support for mental health issues before a tragedy occurs.”

The project expands on a pilot program funded by the Commonwealth government and is set to run in every Australian state and territory, with negotiations still ongoing with Western Australia.

It will capture data relating to male mental health presentation for three years from 2015 – while excluding personal details such as names – and has potential to be extended to include women.