• A new resource offers hope for users of mental health services in relation to their physical health issues
  • Every day in Australia 30 people with mental illness die early of common chronic physical health conditions
  • Most of these premature deaths are due to preventable health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer

The lived experience of people accessing mental health services has been the focus in the development of a new resource created by a partnership between researchers from Charles Sturt University, RMIT and La Trobe University in offering hope for users of mental health services in improving their physical health.

The latest addition to the Healthtalk Australia website addresses these needs through consumer stories and a series of digital resources that aim to offer a sense of hope and support for people helping them with specific resources for clinicians, health practitioners and consumers.

Equally Well is a proud partner in this work which supports its commitment through the National Consensus Statement to work collaboratively to raise the profile of this complex challenge, according to project director Professor Russell Roberts.

“The trauma of navigating mental health services is having a devastating impact on the physical health of many in our population who are losing hope in their battle for equal access to health care, but hope is on the way,” Professor Roberts said.

“This new resource is a perfect example of what can be achieved when we are all equal partners in this work; lived experience experts, clinicians, researchers, policy makers have all come together in a resource we know will have the chance to save lives.”

The Physical Health Experiences of People who have Accessed Mental Health Services project is funded by the National Mental Health Commission of Australia, Safer Care Victoria and the

Mental Health Commission of NSW and has been guided by a multi-disciplinary Project Advisory Group and a Consumer Leadership Advisory Group

The aim of the uniquely Australian resource is to:

  • inform and supporting users of mental health services in relation to their physical health issues;
  • support partners and families or people living with mental health conditions to have more powerful conversations around physical health; and
  • inform and educate health professionals, service providers, policymakers and the wider community on barriers to health care for people navigating mental health services that prevent them from accessing better health care.

“Every day in Australia 30 people with mental illness die early of common chronic physical health conditions and most of these premature deaths are due to preventable health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to ABS research (2),” Professor Roberts said.

“These materials and stories from people with lived experience are really powerful in offering a message of hope about how we can all do better to address physical health needs of people living with mental illness and become a more Equally Well community.”

Leading the Physical Health resources project for Healthtalk Australia is Associate Professor of Law Chris Maylea who is a member of the Equally Well Alliance.

“Without guidance and the right resources, navigating the health system can be lonely,” Professor Maylea said.

“Understanding that other people have been through this process can give a sense of hope and shared experience which might make the difference to people seeking out help or not when they really need it.”

The Physical Health resources website was launched at a webinar on Tuesday 29 November where consumers, clinicians and policy makers came together in a panel session about how to maintain focus on this issue, with some of Australia’s leaders in mental health including:

Maggie Toko – Victorian Mental Health Complaints Commission, Assistant Commissioner

Anna Love – Safer Care Victoria, Chief Mental Health Nurse

Christine Morgan – National Mental Health Commission, CEO

Tim Heffernan – Mental Health Commission of New South Wales, Deputy Commissioner

The project is now in the first stage of its launch to the public and is looking for feedback from users across the mental and physical health sectors to make an ongoing contribution to this important resource.

If you have feedback on the website and its resources or want to know more about the project make contact with the team; E.LeCouteur@latrobe.edu.au.

You can visit the website here: https://www.healthtalkaustralia.org/physical-wellbeing-and-mental-health/overview/

References:

 National Mental Health Commission. Equally Well Consensus Statement. ‘Improving the physical health and wellbeing of people living with mental illness in Australia’. NMHC 2016: https://www.equallywell.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Equally-Well-National-Consensus-Booklet-47537.pdf

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. ‘Mortality of people using mental health services and prescription medications’. Analysis of 2011 data. Canberra: ABS; 2017.

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