What do you enjoy most about your role?
What I enjoy most about my role is the opportunity to work in an area that has such potential for real impact on the community. By actively partnering with young people and their families as well as health services, we are able to collaboratively co-design innovative models of care, supported by digital health solutions and education and training programs, to drive reform at the service and system level. Our team’s dedication to the principles of genuine co-design are well demonstrated by the active role of those with lived experience throughout our research, implementation and evaluation activities.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
The most challenging part of my role is trying to engage mental health professionals in the health services reform process. While health professionals are genuinely motivated to provide the best care to consumers, they are time poor and often burdened by administrative responsibilities. Therefore, it is our aim to ensure that health professionals are actively involved in the development and evaluation of our digital health solutions and education and training programs, alongside the consumers with whom they work, to ensure that the content and method of delivery are relevant, engaging, and valued.
What do you believe are some of the key takeaways for the mental health sector in Australia from the Federal Budget announced on 11 May 2021?
The additional funding for mental health in the Federal Budget signals recognition of the current mental health crisis in Australia. The past 18-months have been some of the most challenging for Australians in recent years, resulting from a major drought, bushfires, floods, and now the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. While the funding is certainly a necessary step towards improvements in the quality and coordination of mental health care, it is important to recognise that increased expenditures in the past have not resulted in an appreciable change in psychological distress in the Australian community. Therefore, it is critical that the funding be used to develop and deploy smarter, digitally-enhanced mental health services and education and training programs as a means to facilitate effective care coordination and to address issues of demand.
What does the budget mean for the Brain and Mind Centre (BMC)?
The BMC houses a network of over 1000 researchers across large-scale, multidisciplinary teams, including the Youth Mental Health and Technology team led by Professor Ian Hickie, Co-Director for Health and Policy. The BMC estimates that the mental health sector alone needs approximately $1 billion each year from Federal funds and an equal amount from States and territories. The budget provides only one half of this. While we are hopeful that the influx in mental health funding in Federal Budget will result in more services, very little has been dedicated to research or innovation.
Do you believe the additional funding announced for mental health paves the way towards better care for the increasing number of Australians who need mental health care?
As a key area of human services, the mental health sector is in urgent need of this financial investment; however, it is now critical that we ensure that this funding is not spent on ‘more of the same’ but rather used to drive system innovation and reform. As explained by the Victoria Royal Commission, the system has experienced ‘catastrophic’ failures, particularly for those with more complex needs. To combat this, there needs to be a clear emphasis on early intervention and prevention services for children and young people. Care needs to be provided by skilled, multidisciplinary teams of health professionals, coordinated with other support services, and enhanced by digital health solutions. The aim needs to be access to personalised, measurement-based, quality care – right care first time.
About Brain and Mind Centre
The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre is a network of researchers and clinicians who partner across borders and disciplines in pursuit of a common goal: to develop better treatments for conditions of the brain and mind and improve health outcomes now and for future generations.
Future Generation Global’s investment contributes to the ongoing design, development and implementation of innovative online clinical assessment and longitudinal tracking tools for use in youth mental health and specifically funds the clinical, research and technology personnel required to lead this work.