Keynote Abstracts

Keynote Abstracts 2017

CEO, National Mental Health Commission


Dr Peggy Brown, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission (the Commission), will examine the concept ‘are we there yet’ as we travel along the road to significant reform of Australia’s mental health system.

Dr Brown will talk about the Commission’s foundation pieces of work which includes its Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services.

In its Contributing Lives Report, 25 recommendations were made to improve Australia’s mental health system – and the Government agreed and adopted most and has begun implementing them. Dr Brown will explain the Report’s key recommendations; what has happened since making them; and what issues continue to be of concern.

Other topics to be discussed by Dr Brown will include:

  • Key Priority Areas of the Fifth National Mental Health Plan
  • The National Disability and Insurance Scheme

Dr Brown will look into significant reforms currently underway in mental health and suicide prevention, which will shift the mental health architecture. The aim of the reforms are to change the way services are planned and delivered to enable better outcomes for people who need mental health support.

Professor of Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing, University Centre for Rural Health (North Coast), University of Sydney

Low Intensity Services in Australia: The Excellent, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

What are low intensity (LI) services? What is the evidence for their effectiveness? Are they likely to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of rural and remote Australians? LI services have been conceived as a way to increase access to evidence-based therapies, particularly for disadvantaged communities and people living in rural/remote contexts. In England, pioneering LI services have formed part of an integrated stepped care system that has transformed mental healthcare. Elements of LI interventions have also been successfully trialled in Australia.

Recently, the Federal Government has tasked the 31 Primary Health Networks to commission LI mental health services from local health providers “to supplement the role of the Digital Mental Health Gateway in providing an initial service ‘step’ within a primary care stepped care framework.” In this talk, the presenter will draw on his experience over the last 10 years of undertaking LI consultancies for beyondblue; co-editing the ‘Oxford Guide to Low Intensity Interventions’; involvement with the Federal government-funded programs, Mindspot and e-Mental-Health-in-Practice; and developing e-mental health training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals. He reflects on some of the successes and shortcomings of LI developments in Australia, and raises concerns about some aspects of the new Federal government initiative.

Professor of Clinical Psychology, The University of Sydney & Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia

Toward Sustainable Effective Methods for Reaching and Treating Early-Onset Mental Health Problems in Rural Children

The treatment of choice for children with early onset behavioural and emotional problems is high quality parenting programs, but less than 25% of those in need access these. In rural areas, the numbers are substantially lower. In this talk I will speak about evidence-based programs for these families and present the results of randomized controlled trials run in an partnership between the University of Sydney and Royal Far West in NSW. The trials evaluated two methods for reaching and supporting the parents of such children by provided individually tailored parenting strategies to improve child outcomes. The results show that therapist assisted online parenting programs are a highly acceptable and cost effective method for providing early intervention for children in need.

CEO, beyondblue

Since beyondblue was founded in 2000, there has been enormous growth in public awareness of mental health issues. The government’s health reform strategy has seen the establishment of Primary Health Networks that tailor services to meet the needs of local communities. Contesting conventional thinking about mental health and wellbeing interventions has resulted in them no longer being considered the exclusive domain of clinicians. However, much remains to be done. Untreated depression increases the risk of suicide and every day eight Australians take their own life. Yet, only 46 per cent of Australians with anxiety and depression access treatment and support when they need it.

Living remotely brings many rewards, but there are also unique difficulties such as the lack of access to services and too few mental health professionals, cultural differences and tyrannies of distance. Stigma remains a major contributing factor to the reluctance to seek support, particularly in rural and regional areas. In this keynote address, Ms Harman will discuss these challenges and how prevention and early intervention through schools, workplaces and communities have the potential to transform life-long mental health outcomes for millions. Ms Harman will suggest new ways for organisations to capture the needs of the largest cohort of the mentally unwell – those at the early end of the spectrum – who are currently unidentified, undiagnosed and slipping through the safety net. She will discuss how internet-based technology – the most widely used resource for people with any kind of health concern – can offer service managers and designers the tools to listen for and hear the otherwise silent voices of people needing support. Participants to be challenged to think outside their comfort zones when it comes to delivering mental health supports. She will propose that nobody should be left behind when it comes to supporting, maintaining and improving the mental health of all Australians in 2017.

Senior Research Fellow, John Richards Initiative, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing, La Trobe University

What Impacts on Wellness for Older People Living in Rural Communities

Australian health and aged care policy is undergoing rapid change as a result of current reforms that have advocated an approach to service provision that emphasises a more holistic model of health.  Recent policy has consequently emphasised wellness, a multidimensional concept that includes aspects such as physical resilience, emotional wellbeing, social connectedness and spirituality as an optimal outcome for older adults. However, the capacity of older adults to maintain their wellness, is problematic in rural contexts.

It is generally reported that rural older people experience poorer health outcomes than those in urban areas specifically related to increased mortality.   There is a lack of systematic rigorous evidence focused upon their ‘wellness’. This presentation will discuss findings from the ASPIRE study, conducted across six rural case study sites in Queensland and Victoria.

The research question addressed was: what factors best predict wellness for older people living in diverse rural communities?   Telephone surveys were conducted with community dwelling rural older people (n=266) 65 and over. The results showed a combination of factors to impact on wellness- in particular:  mental health, physical health, loneliness, financial capability, size of social network and community participation. It will be argued that policy and subsequent strategies need to consider these factors together.

CEO, Mental Health Australia

Mental health is, once again, at the cross roads.  Affected by large scale reforms including Primary Health Networks and the NDIS, mental health remains in a state of change, but for those seeking services the journey remains perilous.  Increasingly the language of “markets” and “competition” underpins reforms, but do we really think that is the answer?  And especially, do we really think that is the answer in rural and remote communities?  This presentation will examine the direction of current reforms, especially their impact in the bush, and will discuss some of the key issues that will need to be addressed if ongoing reform measures are to be successful.

Associate Professor in Leadership and Management, Charles Sturt University and Symposium Chair

Equally Well. Improving the Physical Health of People Living with Mental Illness

People living with mental illness die twenty years earlier than the general population. People living with severe mental illness are 6 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, 4 times more likely to die of respiratory disease and 5 times more likely to smoke. The total economic cost of physical illness in people living with mental illness has been estimated at $15 Billion per annum, almost 1% of the GDP. Things do not have to be this way. People living with mental illness have the right to quality health care. Effective mental health and physical health care improves the quantity and quality of life of those with a mental illness. This presentation describes the national leadership model for implementing the recently released Equally Well: The National Consensus Statement on improving the physical health of people living with mental illness in Australia. It also examines the ways in which clinicians and organisations can be involved and partner in this national initiative.

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