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batyr welcomes Children’s Mental Health Strategy

August 20, 2019

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The Government has announced a children’s mental health strategy focused on prevention and stigma-reduction as part of its Long Term National Health Plan.

batyr believes it’s a positive step to see the Government pursuing a national preventative mental health strategy, with a major focus on young people aged 0-12.

Half of all mental health conditions in adulthood will emerge by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24 (Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR & Walters EE [2005]).

Early prevention is key to achieving positive outcomes so we also agree with the approach to work closely with families, parents and schools to better engage young people earlier in life to reduce the risk of more complex mental health conditions emerging in adulthood.

What is the focus of the Children’s Mental Health Strategy?

The strategy will provide a framework to:

  • embed protective skills in early childhood
  • create mentally healthy home environments
  • support parents, including a new guide to help parents identify signs of self-harm.
  • prevent or treat early childhood trauma

“The earlier we intervene in someone’s life, the more positive their life course can be and the faster they move into treatment and recovery,” National Mental Health Commissioner Lucy Brodgen said.

The national working group tasked with implementing this framework will be led by conjoint Professor of Child and Youth Psychiatry at the Child Health Research Centre and Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service Christel Middeldorp, and director for the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children’s Hospital Professor Frank Oberklaid.

Ongoing focus on stigma-reduction

Amid the long-term plan, Minister Hunt said the Government is committed to reducing mental health stigma. 

“Self-stigma is the great frontier we have yet to conquer,” he said in his address to the National Press Club last week. 

“As a Government, and through the nation’s leaders, organisations, schools and the community, we will work to ensure there will be no shame – in particular, no shame in our own mental health challenges – when we reach out for help.”

One powerful way to change the narrative around help-seeking is through lived experience story-telling at school, he added.

“[The Prime Minister and I] recently went out to an education session by this amazing group of young people with lived experience called batyr.”

“The workshop was focused on the speaker’s journey from clinical depression or suicidality and how positive actions were able to allow them on the path to recovery.”

What else will the long-term plan deliver?

The children’s mental health framework is one of the major components of the Government’s 2030 mental health vision, which also includes:

  • establishing a ‘towards zero’ suicide target and culture through a whole-of-government approach driven by Australia’s first National Suicide Prevention Adviser, Christine Morgan.
  • a 3-year inter-generational survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to inform and co-design the plan which will involve around 60,000 Australians.
  • $8 million for suicide prevention research through the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission, with the next round of funding open for competitive applications in November 2019.
  • $111 million to deliver 30 more headspace centres, bringing the total to 145 centres across Australia, and a promise to deliver a network of adult mental health centres by 2030.
  • $110 million for the Early Psychosis Youth Services Program, where practitioners provide intervention and specialist support services to young people who are, or at risk of, experiencing psychosis.
  • $114.5 million to establish eight adult mental health centres.
  • $63 million for residential eating disorder centres in each state and territory.
  • $36.7 million to expand Way Back services in selected regions, to support people after attempting suicide.

batyr applauds the Government’s focus on prevention and stigma-reduction, the two main factors that will lead to positive mental health outcomes in Australia.

We welcome any further opportunities to be involved in consultations to deliver the plan over the next three to 10 years.

You can check out the complete Long Term Health Plan here.