Australia-first trial to help Canberrans in tough times

THE LATEST initiative in the ongoing drive to improve Australia’s mental health services has taken its first steps in Canberra, with a new trial service for mild depression and anxiety.

Kate Carnell, former Chief Minister and CEO of beyondblue.

Kate Carnell, former Chief Minister and CEO of beyondblue.

Funded jointly by the Movember Foundation and beyondblue, the NewAccess program will offer free early intervention services for people who are just beginning to struggle with the early stages of the two common mental conditions.

Former ACT Chief Minister and beyondblue chief executive Kate Carnell says the new early intervention project is aimed at people with mild symptoms of depression and anxiety, who are finding it harder to cope with difficult times in their lives, but don’t think they are sick enough to see a doctor.

“It could be a job loss, a financial problem – or a lot of other things – that they’re not managing very well and things are starting to get worse,” she says.

Ms Carnell explains that NewAccess will be “quite separate from our current health system” and rely on a new mental health workforce that could be described as “coaches of the mind”.

“These mental health coaches are not health professionals in the mental health space at the moment, they could be a whole range of different people – nurses that have dropped their registration, psychologists or just people who just have good communication skills,” she says. ”They help people find the solutions for the issues that are causing them a problem in their life.”

The training program for the NewAccess staff was developed in the UK, where the model has been very successful, according to the beyondblue CEO, who says evidence suggests the coaching model is “as successful as face-to-face therapy is for this group of people”.

“You can self-refer to this program so you don’t have to go to a doctor – or it could be your partner, a friend or someone in the workplace who suggests it to you,” Ms Carnell says.

“The coaches are trained to assess the person, and they will then work with the person to put together a program tailored to them, to help address the issues they’ve got.

“If it’s deemed to be too serious for this program, they’d be referred to a GP, so it’s quite separate from our current health system but will work closely with GPs and the primary healthcare system.”

Leanne Wells, Dr Rashmi Sharma, Federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Senator Jacinta Collins, Paul Villanti , Jason Hincks (Movember COO), Kate Carnell (beyondblue CEO)

ACT Medicare Local CEO Leanne Wells and chair Dr Rashmi Sharma, Federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Senator Jacinta Collins, Movember executive director of programs Paul Villanti and COO Jason Hincks with beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell.

The new project has the support of the ACT Medicare Local, whose CEO Leanne Wells and chairperson Dr Rashmi Sharma both spoke at a launch event this morning.

Kate Carnell says trials will also begin in conjunction with two other Medicare Locals early next year.

“If the clinical outcomes and the financial outcomes are good, we’ll be going to government and suggesting to them that they might like to roll it out across the country.”

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