National Women's Health Policy

2. Mental health and wellbeing

Current government action to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Current government action to improve mental health and wellbeing

The National Mental Health Policy 2008 provides an overarching vision for a mental health system that enables recovery, prevents and detects mental illness early, and ensures that all Australians with a mental illness can access effective and appropriate treatment and community support to enable them to participate fully in the community.

The Fourth National Mental Health Plan further guides mental health reform outlined in the government’s Mental Health Policy and identifies key actions for progress towards fulfilling the vision of the policy. It suggests a whole-of-government approach and acknowledges that many of the determinants of good mental health, and mental illness, are influenced by factors beyond the health system. It also has a strong focus on social inclusion.

Beyondblue: The National Depression Initiative is responsible for a range of activities, including developing resources and research about depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Headspace is a youth-friendly service which provides holistic care across four key areas:
mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drug use, and social and vocational
support. There are currently 30 sites nationally with another 30 sites to become operational over the next three years. The model provides a service platform for and entry point to existing services and also refers people to other appropriate services.

Body image initiatives, announced in June 2010, aim to build young people’s resilience to body image pressures and promote positive steps on this issue in the fashion, media and advertising industries. Initiatives include support for the Butterfly Foundation to expand its education services, the development of resources for schools and the release of a VoluntaryIndustry Code of Conduct on Body Image. The new initiatives were announced in response to recommendations from a National Advisory Group on Body Image established in 2009 to provide advice on this issue.

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) project brings together eating disorder experts in mental health, public health, health promotion, education, and research, as well as the media. The NEDC is funded $3 million over four years by the Australian Government to facilitate the implementation of a nationally consistent and comprehensive approach to prevention, early intervention and management of eating disorders including the development and promotion of evidence-based messages to schools, at-risk groups and health professionals.
Top of page
Telephone Counselling, Self Help and Web-based Support Programmes support the provision of evidence-based telephone and online mental health programs to supplement or substitute for existing face-to-face services for individuals with common mental health disorders or those in psychosocial crisis. The measure particularly benefits people in rural and remote areas who face barriers in accessing face-to-face services.

Activities under this measure to date have included funding for general psychosocial telephone help lines, online counselling, online self-help and peer support resources and self-directed online treatment modules.

Improving the Capacity of Workers in Indigenous Communities initiative improves the capacity of Indigenous workers in Indigenous communities by supporting health practitioners, including Aboriginal health workers, nurses, counsellors and other clinic staff, to identify and address mental illness and associated substance abuse issues ($20.8 million).

Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) initiative engages Divisions of General Practice to allow GPs to refer patients who have been diagnosed as having a mental disorder to an allied health professional to provide short-term focused psychological services. ATAPS primarily treats people with common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression and targets hard to reach groups. 73.1 per cent of clients accessing ATAPS services are women.

The Commonwealth’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy (NSPS) with an investment of $276.9 million over four years aims to reduce the incidence of suicide and self-harm, and to promote mental health and resilience across the Australian population by supporting broad evidence-based population health approaches as well as providing targeted assistance to groups identified at higher risk of suicide, including youth, Indigenous Australians, people bereaved by suicide, people with a mental illness and people living in rural and remote areas. It is widely recognised that whilst completed suicide rates are generally higher for men, women are believed to account for a greater proportion of incidence of self-harm than their male counterparts.

The Commonwealth is providing funding of up to $108 million from 2006/07 to 2013/14 under the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas (MHSRRA) Program to Divisions of General Practice, Aboriginal Medical Services and the Royal Flying Doctor Service to deliver mental health services by appropriately trained mental health care workers, including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health nurses, Aboriginal health workers and Aboriginal mental health workers.
Top of page
The MHSRRA Program provides funding for mental health professionals in communities that would otherwise have little or no access to mental health services. The program is designed to address inequities in access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule by targeting areas where access to MBS subsidised mental health services is low. The MHSRRA Program also addresses workforce shortage issues by providing flexible employment models suited to local needs and conditions. This includes flexibility to accommodate geographically, culturally and linguistically diverse populations, such as Indigenous communities, in rural and remote areas of Australia.

Please note that while the MHSRRA Program does deliver services to women in rural and remote Australia, the overall program does not specifically target women in rural and remote Australia.

The Targeted Community Care (Mental Health) Program was implemented in 2007 to assist people with mental illness and their families and carers to manage the impact of mental illness on their lives. The program is part of the COAG National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006–2011 and guided by the Fourth National Mental Health Plan. Its three initiatives (Personal Helpers and Mentors [PHaMs], Mental Health Respite, and Community Based Services) build on the strengths of individuals and communities, build partnerships through collaboration within the community mental health and clinical
sector, tailor services to the needs of individuals, families and carers, and build resilience and capacity both for those affected by mental illness and services in the community mental health sector.

Since 2007 this program has been funded for $494 million. From 2007 to 30 September 2010, 55 per cent of the 12,892 PHaMs participants have been women.


Future government action on improving mental health and wellbeing

2.1 Continue supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Australian women through a
range of programs.
2.2 Explore opportunities for future mental health policy to consider the role that gender