On 12 November Australian Unity’s preventative health business Remedy Healthcare launched “Mindstep”–a new mental health program that will assist Australians living with anxiety and depression.
The program is the first of its kind to be launched in Australia to target people discharged from hospital. It is an adaptation of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) model. This model has been successfully applied in the United Kingdom health system since 2008 and more recently in Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia.
Amanda Hagan the CEO of Australian Unity’s Healthcare business explained that the launch was actually the culmination of a long journey searching for –and then leading the implementation of–a program that the business believed would start to address a very large gap in services for people suffering from anxiety and depression.
A panel discussion canvased the somewhat provocative subject of “Moving beyond the rhetoric” in mental health.
Remedy plans to take the program into both the private and public health sectors. It will also be encouraging the general public to refer people they know to be suffering from anxiety or depression to the program and to help spread the word that there is now an alternative approach for people suffering from anxiety or depression.
Mental health, some of the facts:
There have been no less than 32 reports and enquiries into mental health between 2006 and 2012, and there is a major one under way right now. The common finding has been that Australia’s mental health system is in crisis.
While there has been an increasing investment in primary mental health care, principally through the Better Access program—which funds payments to psychologists—there is little available yet on outcomes, either in terms of recovery rates or cost-effectiveness of the interventions.
The chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Professor Allan Fels said recently that most of the current commonwealth funding is neither effective or efficient, amounting to a “payment for failure” to treat problems early.
According to a recent article, almost 90 percent of government funds are spent downstream responding to crisis instead of focusing on prevention. It is estimated that a 25 percent improvement in mental health could yield a one percentage point increase in GDP. These are big numbers.
In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, over 2 million have anxiety and 45% of all Australians will experience a mental health problem over the course of their lives.
Only 35-40 percent of those with depression and anxiety are able to access appropriate services. This leaves nearly 2 million Australians struggling at any one time with a mental illness and wanting, but unable to access, help. Regional differences also come into play, with existing health services concentrated in the cities. Ernst & Young have forecast that by 2027, at least 8,800 additional mental health professionals will be required to service demand at a cumulative cost of $9 billion.