CEO Update - Your health record in your hands...

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

Your health record in your hands...

Twenty five years ago I took up a position at the Australian Medical Association helping general practitioners adapt to computerised medical records in their practices.

Dusty wads of paper, index cards, photocopies and facsimiles were to be replaced by digital files. The promise of this revolution was better medication management, better management of chronic conditions and diseases, better management of reminders and recalls, and more accurate and timely communication with other medical professionals.

At the time, the field was split between optimistic advocates and staunch opponents.

Concerns about privacy, concerns about security, concerns about reliability (we were still learning to back up properly back then) and concerns about dehumanising the therapeutic encounter between a patient and their doctor were all key concerns of the opponents.

On the advocates’ side, much of what was happening was the replacement of DIY solutions with robustly engineered solutions. Keen doctors at the vanguard had sometimes written their own software, or were using programs that were not really fit for purpose, and commercial software companies were moving into the space.

Twenty five years later I now expect to receive an electronic reminder of my appointment. I expect my script to be printed. I expect a recall if my blood test results are out of scope and I expect my doctor to print off information sheets and advice during my appointment. I also expect a reminder when my next test is due.

Over the last few months we have been helping to inform members and stakeholders about My Health Record, including the three-month opt-out period starting this week.

The promise of this new system is similar to the promise of the first electronic GP clinical records: better management of chronic conditions and diseases, better management of reminders and recalls, and more accurate and timely communication with other medical professionals.

For those living with mental health issues, the potential for benefits are greater than for the broader population. We know that people living with mental illness often experience health care that is substandard – co-morbidities can remain untreated or undiagnosed and the complications of treatments and medications can be very damaging.

But we also know that for people living with mental illness, access to information can carry great risks. We still live in a world where stigma and discrimination mean that the unauthorised released of information might mean discrimination in employment, or insurance, or other opportunities.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves each of us empowered to make an informed choice. To weigh up the benefits against the risks – which our friends at the Consumers Health Forum of Australia have published as An important overview of the pros, cons and questions about My Health Record

Yes, you can opt out of the scheme (possibly waiting for it to mature so we can opt in in future) or you can remain in the scheme.  Nearly 6 million Australians have already opted in. The key is, it’s your decision. Your health record in your hands as the website tells us.

I opted in some years ago, because my family history suggests routine monitoring might protect me from some future health challenges and I wanted to gain control and oversight, rather than leave that monitoring in the hands of doctors.

And I suspect that 25 years from now, we will look back at this time in the same way we now look back at those dusty paper files sitting in cabinets at the GP practice, and wonder what the controversy was about.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

Position Vacant: Administration and Project Officer - NMHCCF/National Register

Mental Health Australia has an opportunity for a passionate Administration and Project Officer to join the team in Canberra on a full-time basis.

In this role you will be responsible for providing administration and project support to mental health consumers and carers engaged in Mental Health Australia or Mental Health Australia auspiced activities, particularly the National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF) and National Register.

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Next Week 

On Monday, I will participate in the National Disability Strategy Reform Steering Group meeting before meeting with Richie Gee of Lean on Me Australia, at our office in Canberra.

Belinda Highmore, Acting Director of Policy and Projects, will attending the Orygen roundtable on general practice and youth mental health in Melbourne.

Tuesday, I will attend a meeting of the National Disability Strategy Reinvigoration Working Group and meet with representatives of the Australian Council for International Development via teleconference.

On Thursday, I will catch up with Lyn Morgain, CEO of Cohealth, while members of the Mental Health Australia policy team will meet with representatives from the Department of Social Services to discuss the implementation of the Continuity of Support budget measure.


Mental Health Australia Member Profiles


Mental Health Community Coalition of the ACT (MHCC ACT) is the peak body representing the community managed mental health sector in the ACT. Their aim is to foster the capacity of the service providers to deliver quality, sustainable, recovery-oriented services to support people with mental health issues and their carers. This aim is underpinned by their work in mental health policy development; workforce training; sector coordination; and initiatives to promote the critical role of community services in facilitating recovery and enhancing wellbeing. 
Website - Twitter -

cohealth is a not-for-profit community health organisation that provides vital local health and support services including medical, dental, allied health, mental health, aged care and counselling, and many specialist health services across Melbourne’s CBD, northern and western suburbs. The people who use cohealth services often face significant health disadvantages, have ongoing and complex health and support needs, and are frequently at risk of falling through gaps in health services and funding systems. cohealth is a keen advocate for improved access to health care for all.
Website - Facebook - Twitter -



#YouCanTalk unites national agencies

Led by some of Australia’s national mental health and suicide prevention organisations, the #YouCanTalk campaign is paving a new direction for suicide prevention in Australia.

The campaign is a collaborative effort by beyondblue, Black Dog Institute, Everymind, headspace, Lifeline, ReachOut and R U OK?, which aims to empower and increase confidence when it comes to talking about suicide. Whether it is for conversations with friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances, #YouCanTalk also highlights the resources available to support these conversations.

"Our message is this: #YouCanTalk about suicide. Half the population think that they can’t. We are on a mission to partner with the community to prevent suicide in this country."
beyondblue CEO, Georgie Harman 

"The evidence is in: it is not harmful to ask someone if they are thinking about taking their own life or find out if they have made a plan. In fact, it could help. It’s important that we all know the facts about suicide and our prevention efforts are informed by what the research tells us." 
Black Dog Institute Director, Prof Helen Christensen

"Suicide is an issue that many find difficult to talk about, but it is an issue that is having major impacts on communities across Australia. #YouCanTalk is about giving people the confidence to have the conversation by connecting them to the tools that can support them."
Everymind Director, Jaelea Skehan

"Suicide is not a silent killer. There are signs that we can all look out for, particularly when it comes to young people, who have a range of life stresses that may be masking something deeper."
headspace CEO, Jason Trethowan

"Australia has world-leading suicide prevention services and we want to ensure people who need them access them. However, the reality is, not everyone will seek help themselves – they may firstly disclose their need to family and friends."
Lifeline CEO, Bob Gilkes

"The more #YouCanTalk about suicide with your friends and family in an open, honest and empathetic way, the more lives we can save."
ReachOut CEO, Jono Nicholas

"You know your friends and family best and you are best-placed to have an open conversation with them and help them find the right support if something isn’t right."
R U OK? CEO, Brendan Maher


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Improved services and job creation in NDIS

The workforce delivering frontline National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services has increased by 10.5 per cent, creating new jobs and providing improved support to Australians with disability. More than 2,300 jobs have been created to deliver the NDIS in local communities across Australia. 

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Improvements to NDIS MyPlace portals for participants and providers

Improvements to make National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) online systems easier to use and more effective for participants and providers will go live this weekend. Among the changes, participants and providers will be given control over their service bookings through the NDIS online portal, so they can amend or cancel service bookings without waiting for NDIA staff to process requests. NDIA CEO Robert De Luca said the changes were the latest improvements to come out of the agency's Pathways Review to build a stronger, more effective NDIS through consultation and continuous improvement.

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Don’t let opt out debate shroud potential benefits of My Health Record

Australians should not lose sight of the great potential benefits of the My Health Record in the current debate about the provisions for opting out of My Health Record. “There may well be issues of real concern about the privacy and security of MHR and these must be resolved if the development is to succeed,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells said.
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Australian athletes to benefit from mental health initiatives

The Australian Institute of Sport is launching two mental health initiatives, enhancing its commitment to athlete wellbeing and its leadership role in high performance sport. The AIS is undertaking a Mental Health Issue and Illness Audit, an anonymous online survey to assess the current mental health and wellbeing of Australia's elite athlete cohort. The AIS will also establish a National Mental Health Referral Network, providing high performance athletes with support for assessment and treatment for mental health issues. 

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What is Caring Fairly?

Caring Fairly is a national advocacy and awareness-raising campaign focused on improving and realising the economic, social and cultural rights of mental health carers. 

The campaign goals are to:

  1. Influence and improve legislation and public policy arrangements for mental health carers
  2. Influence and sustainably improve employer behaviour and workplace practice positively for mental health carers
  3. Raise public awareness on the situation of mental health carers.

This three-year campaign will be launched in Winter 2018 and you can find out more at the link below.

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Australia's first crisis text service

Lifeline Australia has begun development on Australia’s first SMS-based crisis support service, Text4Good. The new service will be an innovative mix of technology and ‘good old-fashioned compassion’ that will help reach more Australians in crisis, particularly those aged 15-44 for whom suicide is the leading cause of death. Trials begin in Adelaide and Alice Springs.

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Borderline personality disorder in youth and early intervention

Practitioner webinar: Borderline Personality Disorder in Youth and Early Intervention Register for this webinar to be held on Mon 23 July at 7.15 – 8.30 pm AEST. Funded by the Australian Government, this webinar is free for practitioners and eligible for RACGP QI & CPD points, ACCRM points and CPD self-report.

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Stress Down Day

Stress Down Day is a fun and easy initiative to reduce stress and raise vital funds for Lifeline. This year Stress Down Day will take place on the 24 July 2018. To take part, Lifeline is encouraging organisations and individuals to organise their own Stress Down Day at work, school or with your friends at home! Find activity suggestions, learn more or register your event below.

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Human Rights Awards 2018

2018 is a special year for the Human Rights Awards, marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you know someone, or perhaps a business or organisation, that deserves to be recognised for their devotion to making Australia a better place and their commitment to ensuring our rights and freedoms are enjoyed by all, on an equal basis, nominate them for a Human Rights Award today via the link below.

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AADDM 2018 Conference 

The Australian Association of Developmental Disability Medicine (AADDM) Conference is fast approaching and is to be held on 6-7 September 2018 at the Aerial Function Centre, Sydney. The programme is shaping up well to be both thought provoking yet relevant for our clinical practice and will serve to highlight important issues for health services and for improving the health of people with developmental disabilities. An interim programme is now available online.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention conferences

The 2nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference and the 2018 World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference will this year combine to collaborate on solutions that work in suicide prevention for Indigenous people and communities. This combined event recognises that indigenous communities, both nationally and internationally, share common histories and confront similar issues stemming from experiences of colonisation. Conferences take place in Perth from 20 - 23 November 2018.

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2018 National Men's Health Gathering in November

Research shows that the best way to improve male health is to tackle the underlying social factors like boys’ education; our experiences of fatherhood; our working lives; our social connections and our access to male-friendly services.

This year’s Gathering combines the 12th National Men’s Health Conference (first held in 1995) and the 9th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Health Convention and will be held in Sydney from 12-14 November.

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Webinar: Healing for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander young people

Healing Foundation is hosting a webinar about healing for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on 24 July, from 10.15am AEST, at the Edge Theatre, State Library of Queensland. Our Healing, Our Future: shaping strategies with our your people brings together a panel of young people and experts to discuss lived experience of intergenerational trauma, strategies for creating positive change, and building up our young people to develop strong healing programs. Learn more below.

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