Media releases

New mental health workforce to improve mental health services in Australia

30 Jul 2013

A ground-breaking new Beyond Blue program powered by Movember funds will allow thousands of Australians with depression or anxiety to refer themselves to free early intervention services before their condition worsens. 

NewAccess is an Australian-first program designed to ease the burden on current services by offering low-intensity support to people with mild depression or anxiety. Because it can be accessed easily through self-referral or via traditional referral channels such as GPs, it also promises to significantly boost the number of Australians who get support, particularly those who usually don’t or can’t access services, such as men or people in regional areas.

The $13.25 million trial, which is funded with $8.15 million from strategic investor Movember and the remainder from Beyond Blue, will be unveiled today (July 30) at 9.30am at the ACT Medicare Local, 2/1 Geils Court, Deakin ACT by the Federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Jacinta Collins, Beyond Blue CEO Kate Carnell AO, Movember COO Jason Hincks, and ACT Medicare Local Chair Dr Rashmi Sharma and CEO Leanne Wells.

Beyond Blue CEO Kate Carnell said NewAccess will create a new mental health workforce by employing specially-trained coaches who offer individually-tailored programs to people experiencing low-level psychological distress. She said its accessibility means it will engage distressed people early to treat their condition before it worsens, thereby complementing and integrating with current mental health services and lightening the load on the existing system. It is based on a hugely successful UK program, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, which achieved good results in less time and at less cost than traditional therapies.

“NewAccess is an incredibly exciting development for mental health services in Australia,” Ms Carnell said. “It is adapted from a UK program that achieved a recovery rate of 50 per cent and showed that low-intensity approaches can work just as well as high-intensity ones for people with mild to moderate depression or anxiety. With NewAccess, if a wife is a bit worried about her husband’s wellbeing, she can have him pick up the phone and book an appointment to have an informal chat with one of our coaches. He can then be given some self-help strategies and a bit of support, confident in the knowledge that he has been put on the right path to recovery. If, of course, he needs more intensive psychological support, he will be referred to his GP to coordinate that immediately.”

Ms Carnell said NewAccess is delivered in different ways including face-to-face meetings, telephone support and with the use of an online resource.

“There are around three million Australians who live with depression or anxiety, but only a third of these seek support,” she said. “We hope that this program’s accessibility, cost-effectiveness and individual tailoring can significantly boost that.”

The NewAccess trial will be open to all ACT residents when it launches in October 2013. All coaches will be members of the local community, and the ACT Medicare Local in conjunction with Beyond Blue has now started recruiting. Two more demonstration sites (yet to be finalised) will be set up early in 2014, with all trials funded by Beyond Blue and Movember.

They will run for approximately two years and are being independently evaluated over the course of the program. This evaluation will then be put to the Federal government for consideration.

The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Senator Jacinta Collins said the stigma often associated with mental illness is real, and can be a major factor in people accessing care.

“Unfortunately, we know this stigma continues to disproportionately affect men,” she said. “What really matters is providing the mental health services that will engage men and give them the help they need."

Movember COO Jason Hincks said Movember is committed to supporting innovative programs that change the face of men’s health.

“In the case of mental health the need is urgent,” he said. “We know that men taking action early is the most effective way of recovering from a mental health issue. We know that too many men don’t take action, leading in many cases to tragic consequences. We are excited by the NewAccess program and its revolutionary approach to early intervention. We believe this model, inclusive of accessible community based Access Coaches, will have particular appeal for men. We at Movember continue to be humbled by the passion and power of Australian Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who make ground-breaking initiatives such as this possible."

ACT Medicare Local Chair, Dr Rashmi Sharma said she sees many patients who face significant stressful life events such as the purchase of a new home, a separation or difficulties at work.

“Many of these patients are reluctant to access current mental health services for a variety of factors such as  stigma or embarrassment and  a low intensity service such as this will help me meet their needs,” she said.

“ACT Medicare Local’s employment of the coaches means that we can link them up with general practices and other points of referral in the community, ensuring connected and coordinated support and ‘step up’ into more specialised care if required.”

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