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Mental health funding extension welcomed

April 2015

St Vincent's Health Australia (SVHA) has welcomed the Commonwealth Government's decision to extend funding – for one year – for community-based mental health services around the country.

The funding – worth almost $300 million – would provide significant certainty to organisations involved in supporting and caring for people struggling with mental illness, such as SVHA.

"As an organisation delivering frontline services to people with mental illness, some of which are funded under this arrangement, we welcome the government's announcement," said St Vincent Health's CEO, Toby Hall.

"As with the rest of the sector, we're also eager to the see the results of the Mental Health Review, which will help shape services in the future and hopefully give us a strong foundation on which to grow.

"But we have no time to waste. The government received the Mental Health Commission's report in November. Six months later, it needs to see the light of day so we can provide comment and get the ball rolling on improving the system.

"Because make no mistake there's massive room for improvement in Australia's mental health system.

"Far too many people are missing out and we need to embrace innovative and cost-effective models like This Way Up."

This Way Up is a partnership between St Vincent's Hospital Sydney and the University of NSW's Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD).

Largely funded by the Commonwealth, This Way Up uses online therapy to reduce anxiety, depression and suicide ideation among its participants.

A study of 420 This Way Up participants experiencing depression (mild, moderate and severe), showed it achieved the following results:

  • 60% recovered completely while another 20% improved as a result of completing the program.
  • The number of participants experiencing severe depression dropped from 34% to 10%.
  • Pre-treatment, 60% of participants regularly experienced ‘better off dead days' where they contemplated suicide. After This Way Up, that number reduced to 33%.

Hospital admissions among This Way Up participants have been reduced by 40% over the two years following course completion.

"This Way Up is particularly important for people experiencing anxiety and depression in regional and rural areas, which are so short of specialist mental health practitioners – something which I'm sure the Minister, who represents a large regional electorate, is acutely aware.

"As the Minister turns her mind to the long-term, she should recognise that at the very least the Commonwealth needs to maintain its current levels of investment in mental health.

"And given the undisputed level of unmet demand, we believe there's a strong case for increasing funding, particularly for services with demonstrated impact," said Mr Hall.