CEO Update from Mental Health Australia: Equity of access to vaccines – lessons from COVID-19

Image of a nurse and patient both wearing masks and talking.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed pre-existing inequities in Australia’s health system. People living with mental illness have increased risks of hospitalisation and long-term effects from COVID-19, but vaccination rates for people with mental illness have lagged behind the general population.

Unfortunately, this is similar to patterns for other vaccine-preventable illnesses including influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

These inequities in vaccine access for people living with mental illness are an international trend. Mental Health Australia strongly supports the Equally Well Global Call to Action for fair and equitable access to vaccination for people living with mental illness and substance use disorders. 

This international call to action affirms that equitable access to vaccination is fundamental to human rights, and people living with mental ill-health “should have the same opportunity to access and decide to be protected against infectious diseases as anyone else facing the same level of risk.”

However, innovative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have also shown that we can do things differently. 

In Australia, examples of outreach programs to provide vaccination opportunities for people experiencing homelessness or other barriers to access have been highly successful. Targeted and supportive vaccination programs have been well-received by people living with mental illness and can result in vaccination uptake rates similar to or higher than the general population.

We must implement these lessons more broadly to continue improving the COVID-19 vaccination rate for people with mental illness, and address inequity in access to other vaccination programs.

This means governments giving appropriate priority to people living with mental illness, and committing to proactive approaches to ensuring equity of access to vaccination. It means partnering with people with lived experience, and drawing on community strengths and connections. And it means recognising the potential contribution of a whole range of health professionals and organisations – where accessibility requires having multiple options to suit different people with different needs.

Mental Health Australia continues to call on Australian governments to prioritise people living with mental illness or ill-health in vaccination programs, and improve the integration of our mental health and health systems more broadly.

Have a great weekend.


Dr Leanne Beagley
CEO


National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF) and the National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network (MHLEEN) partner with Yale University to a run a transformational leadership development program

The NMHCCF and MHLEEN, through their jointly funded Leadership Program, are partnering with the Yale University Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH) to support up to 15 emerging leaders with a lived experience of recovery of mental health to participate in the LET(s)LEAD Academy, a transformational leadership development program. Candidates will have personal lived experience of mental health distress and recovery and are making positive changes in their community or sector or be interested in transformational change.

The virtual course, facilitated by instructors from PRCH, Department of School of Medicine, Yale and guest facilitators throughout Australia, will run from February 2022 – November 2022. The first phase of the course consists of 10-weekly online seminars that cover concepts such as developing a personal vision, transformational change, appreciative inquiry, strategy, and change management.

In the second phase of the course, participants will be matched with the mentorship of a community leader nationally or internationally according to a self-chosen piece of work contributing to the lived experience sector. It is intended that after course completion, participants will provide lived experience transformational leadership within their organisation and within the mental health Lived Experience (Peer) workforce sector within Australia.

Further information and applications forms are available via the NMHCCF website or here.


Congratulations

Mental Health Australia is delighted to congratulate Honor Eastly and Professor Ian Hickie AM who have been awarded the 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize.

Honor Eastly is a mental health advocate, writer and podcaster. Her own podcast No Feeling is Final draws on her own lived experience and skills to assist others who are facing mental health challenges.

Professor Ian Hickie AM is the Co-Director, Health and Policy, the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. He is a celebrated researcher in depression, early intervention and youth mental health.

The Prize is awarded annually to an Australian who has made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness – in areas such as advocacy, research or service provision. The prize recognises contributions undertaken in Australia which are of national significance. Learn more about the recipients.


Submission to Senate Inquiry into NDIS Participant Service Guarantee Bill

Last week Mental Health Australia provided a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee considering the NDIS Amendment (Participant Service Guarantee and Other Measures) Bill 2021. Mental Health Australia welcomed particular changes to the legislation following consultation, but raised some ongoing concerns. The Bill represents an improvement to the current legislation regarding psychosocial disability, but further work is required to ensure appropriate and consistent interpretation of new terminology to prevent unintended consequences. Mental Health Australia has urged the Australian Government to engage with the mental health sector to establish agreed guidelines for interpretation and implementation of the legislation.


Submission to inquiry into NDIS implementation and forecasting

Mental Health Australia has made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS inquiry into Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the NDIS. This submission highlighted concerns regarding insufficient availability of psychosocial supports outside the NDIS; interface and boundary issues between the NDIS and clinical mental health, employment and housing service systems; and pointed to ongoing reforms required to improve the delivery of recovery-oriented psychosocial support services through the NDIS.


Call for National Social Prescribing Scheme

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) and Mental Health Australia are urging the government to implement a national social prescribing scheme to tackle Australia’s mental health and wellbeing crisis. Mental ill-health is a growing problem in Australia and has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2017, GPs across Australia have rated mental health as the most common presentation they see as part of the RACGP’s annual Health of the Nation survey. Approximately 20% of patients consult their GP for what are primarily social problems. The RACGP, CHF and Mental Health Australia are calling on the Australian Government to support the development of a nationally coordinated scheme dedicated to tackling the problem with innovative local solutions.

Find out more about our joint call for a National Social Prescribing Scheme.

NEXT WEEK

It has been such a privilege to talk with leaders from Mental Health Australia members in my one-to-one catch-ups. These continue this week.

In addition, on Monday I am attending the “Essential Director Update” with the AICD and then a meeting of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce. 
Later Bec Cody (Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT) and I will be meeting with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to discuss Mental Health Australia’s “Advice to Governments”.

On Tuesday I am looking forward to a conversation with the Board at PANDA as they prepare for a new strategic plan, and later we will be meeting with the team from Future Generation about investment in mental health innovation.

On Wednesday I will be meeting with former colleague Learne Durrington, CEO WA PHN. I am then planning to present a briefing to the National Mental Health Commissioners on the new phase of our Embrace multicultural program. Later I will be participating on the Expert Advisory Committee for Occupational Therapy Australia’s mental health development work.

On Thursday we have a Board Finance, Audit and Risk Management Meeting and then I am delighted to be the Guest Speaker at the AGM for the Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition, thanks to the invitation from new, CEO Geoff Radford.

On Friday I start with a CEO gathering hosted by the Bevington Group– “Leading the Changes for COVID Normal”. Later I have the NDIA’s Disability Representative and Carer Organisations’ (DRCO) Forum. Then I will be presenting at a CEDA (Committee for Economic Development) event.

 

Member Benefits, Jobs and Profiles

Communicate your news, job vacancies, or upcoming events to more than 5,000 people in the mental health ecosystem weekly.

Mental Health Australia members are invited to send us news, announcements, job vacancies, events or other notices for inclusion in the Weekly CEO Update newsletter. To do so, simply fill out this form by COB each Wednesday for your notice to appear in the newsletter the following Friday.


Member Profiles

Psychosis Australia Trust
The mission of the Psychosis Australia Trust is to support organisational, investment, and policy capacity to carry out priority-driven research into schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder – with the aim of helping all those affected by these mental illnesses to live better lives now.


HelpingMinds
HelpingMinds offers quality and confidential mental health support to the family and friends of people living with mental health challenges across WA & Darwin. We also help people navigate the NDIS system and are a registered NDIS provider.

 

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

COVID-19 Vaccines booster doses

ATAGI recommends that people aged 18 years and over receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine six months after they complete their initial two-dose course. Receiving a booster dose will maintain individuals’ protection against COVID-19. Booster doses will be free and available to everyone in Australia aged 18 years and over. Getting a booster dose is not mandatory but it is recommended to maintain immunity against COVID-19. More information about booster doses, including which vaccine is being used for booster doses, is available on the Department of Health websiteTranslated resources are available here.

Embrace Australia logo (a rectangle with a light and dark purple cultural stripe pattern with "embrace" and stylised outline of the Australian continent in the lower right corner).

 

Mental Health News

New website supporting dads in the transition to parenthood 

the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) is excited to announce DadSpace, a new website dedicated to supporting fathers across Australia. DadSpace provides information, strategies, tips, resources, and support specifically for dads who are expecting or have a new baby. DadSpace also includes a call for dads who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety to join our trial of our new dads online treatment program DadBooster, a world-first specialised online treatment based upon a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach. DadBooster expands on PIRI’s perinatal depression treatment programs which include MumMoodBooster, a free online treatment program for depressed perinatal women and MumSpace, a website launched in 2017 offering emotional support to women.

Read more


Beyond Blue continues to support people through the pandemic as new survey shows its impact

A new survey reveals many Australians are feeling unsettled as Beyond Blue launches a new push to support the nation’s mental health and wellbeing. Beyond Blue commissioned a survey of 1600 people from around Australia from October 15 to 27 as restrictions began to ease. More than half said the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health. A new early intervention initiative called Mixed Emotions will appear on radio, digital channels and streaming services, reassuring people that mixed feelings are common and encouraging people to reach out to the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.

Read more


Extra mental health support for new parents

Minister for Mental Health, James Merlino, says new parents will soon have better access to the vital mental health support they need, with an investment from the Victorian Government to expand and reform community perinatal mental health teams across the state. One in five women will experience a perinatal mental health concern between conception and the time their baby is 12 months old, with anxiety and depression the most common types of illness. With lockdowns and restrictions on women having visitors in hospital, the pandemic has placed even more stress on new parents - and an investment of $6.89 million will help meet the extra demand to ensure every new parent who needs support can get it quickly, and close to home. 

Read more


New guidance to improve mental health services for trans and gender diverse Canberrans

The ACT Government has released nation-leading guidance to help practitioners provide more supportive mental health services for trans and gender diverse Canberrans. Developed as a collaboration between the ACT Government, A Gender Agenda and Meridian, Guidance to support gender-affirming care for mental health is a resource for all practitioners who provide mental health support and services. Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said the guidance would help reduce some of the barriers that trans and gender diverse Canberrans face when seeking mental health support.

Read more


More mental health support for young Victorians

The Victorian Government will more than double the capacity of Victoria’s Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) network, giving more young Victorians access to the mental health services they need closer to home. “In a major boost for mental health services designed to support young people - particularly those across regional Victoria - Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Mental Health James Merlino today announced the locations of a further five centres to be built across the state.  The new centres will support more than 900 extra young Victorians each year to get the tailored support they need in a crisis - more than doubling the capacity of the state’s current YPARC network. 

Read more


New practical support for people impacted by suicide of a loved one

Families and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide will now have access to a range of useful supports thanks to the NSW Government’s $4.5 million boost to post-suicide services across the State. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said that post-suicide support was critical to support loved ones as well as the wider community. “We know that around 135 people can be impacted by a single suicide,” Mrs Taylor said. “For friends and family, the death of a loved one by suicide is not only heartbreaking and shocking, it can also create new challenges as well as making day-to-day tasks incredibly difficult.”

Read more


Progressing Canberra’s eating disorder residential treatment centre

A design tender for Canberra’s residential treatment centre has opened, taking the ACT closer to more support and services for people with eating disorders. The centre will provide a home-like environment for people with eating disorders to receive specialised support for clients, families, and carers throughout their management and recovery journey. This includes intensive nutritional and psychological treatment in a supportive environment so people can have safe, healthy relationships with food and exercise. 

Read more


Valuing our mental health staff’s wellbeing

Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Jeremy Rockliff, says management of Statewide Mental Health Services has taken a very important step towards improving staff wellbeing by conducting the organisation’s first resilience scan. “As a Government, we are committed to improving the mental health of all Tasmanians and it is vital that those who work on the frontline of this critical area are well supported themselves. We recognise that the work undertaken by the staff of Statewide Mental Health Services is often very demanding and it is greatly valued by the Government and the wider community.”

Read more

 

Reminders 

Lessons from 25 years of Suicidology, Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University

The inaugural School of Applied Psychology Annual Lecture; Lessons from 25 years of Suicidology at Griffith University is a virtual event, drawing on 25 years of research at the Australian Institute for Research Suicide and Prevention (AISRAP) and the Queensland Suicide Register and their objective of preventing as many suicides as possible. The discussion will investigate long-term and emerging trends in suicide. This will be followed by a case example of how suicide can be prevented in a high-risk population: Trade Apprentices. Twenty years of suicidology post-graduate education will also be commemorated, and the session will finish with a presentation concerning key community tips concerning myths and facts about suicide and its prevention. It will be held Thursday, 25 November at 3:45 pm - 5:15 pm AEST. Register here.

OzHelp’s Year in Review Event

OzHelp is holding a Year in Review event, an opportunity for the sector and stakeholders to learn more about OzHelp’s reach, impact and approach to suicide prevention on Friday 10 December, 11am-12pm AEDT. During this event, OzHelp will release its report: It’s tough out there: health and wellbeing, to prevent suicide, for hard to reach workers in high-risk industries. The report provides evidence to support a focus for suicide prevention on predominantly male, hard to reach workers in high-risk industries. You can register to attend in-person at East Hotel, Kingston, Canberra ACT, or online via Zoom.

COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Alert - 15 November 2021

The Department of Health has issued its next COVID-19 vaccination – Disability Provider Alert 15 November 2021. In this update you will find important information on the rights of NDIS participants to access the COVID-19 vaccine, mandatory vaccination for disability workers, third doses and booster doses, in-home vaccinations in QLD and Victoria, current vaccination hubs and the expansion of the National Coronavirus helpline. This provider alert along with other resources and information about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is available from a dedicated web page for disability service providers on the Department of Health website.

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