More than $38 million will be invested into mental health and suicide prevention support and services across the Australian Capital Territory over the next five years, following the signing of a landmark bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and ACT governments.
The Commonwealth will invest $25.2 million, and the ACT will invest $12.9 million to expand mental health care services to where they are needed the most.
New mental health services, particularly for people in the group known as the “missing middle”, and suicide prevention services, will be established.
The funding includes:
- $8.3 million to continue Head to Health adult mental health services across the ACT to address gaps in the mental health system, providing more integrated, seamless care for adults and older Australians. This will continue funding for the existing Head to Health service that opened in October 2021.
- $9 million to enhance child (and family) mental health initiatives to improve access to multidisciplinary team care to children, in line with the National Head to Health Kids Hub model. These enhancements will support more than 2,500 children and their families each year.
- $9.5 million to enhance the existing headspace centre to increase access to multidisciplinary youth mental health services in the ACT, and to establish a multidisciplinary early intervention service to support young people at risk of developing mental health concerns.
- $6 million to establish universal aftercare services in the ACT to support people following a suicide attempt or suicidal crisis.
- $2.8 million to improve perinatal mental health screening and enhance the capture and reporting of nationally consistent perinatal mental health data.
- $1.9 million to deliver a community based early intervention service for eating disorders to promote help seeking behaviour and early intervention treatment for people in the early stages of developing an eating disorder and those with an eating disorder of low to moderate severity.
The ACT will also adopt and implement the Initial Assessment and Referral Tool in some settings to support consistent assessment and referral integration and establish an intake and assessment phone service to provide integration between Territory-funded mental health services.
In addition to these initiatives, the Commonwealth and ACT governments will substantially deepen their partnership in the mental health and suicide prevention system, through greater data sharing and evaluation of services, closer integration of referral pathways, and working together on the regional planning and commissioning of services. The bilateral agreement will also build and support the mental health and suicide prevention workforce, including the peer workforce.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the agreement will ensure people in the ACT will have access to additional mental health support, when and where they need it.
“This landmark agreement will be of immense benefit to everyone in the ACT and will support our ongoing national recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Hunt said.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said agreement will mean more Canberrans can access mental health support.
“This is an important investment into the ACT’s mental health support services. The ACT particularly welcomes the additional investment in early intervention and prevention as a part of the nation’s approach to addressing mental illness,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.
ACT Minister for Mental Health, Emma Davidson, said the agreement will keep more Canberrans healthy, well and connected to services in their community.
“Canberrans should be able to access quality care and support for their mental health needs so they can stay well in the community. However, the reality is that many more people in our community are feeling distressed or anxious following the challenges of the pandemic and natural disasters caused by climate change,” Minister Davidson said.
“The agreement between the ACT and Australian Government will see more early intervention and prevention mental health services across Canberra so more people can stay well in our community.”
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said the bilateral agreement will contribute to the landmark reform of the Australian mental health and suicide prevention system and will ensure Canberrans and those within the surrounding regions have access to additional mental health support.
“This partnership between the Commonwealth and ACT will have a significant impact on many thousands of peoples’ lives and it will also save lives,” Assistant Minister Coleman said.
“This is particularly true for aftercare services – we know the risk of suicide is greatest in the days and weeks following discharge from hospital due to a previous suicide attempt, yet not everyone in this group receives appropriate follow up support.
“These people are amongst our most vulnerable, and through this agreement we are committing to do everything we can to support them.”
The bilateral agreement with the ACT will form part of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement, which is now in effect.
The National Agreement considers key mental health reports and inquiries including recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Advice. It outlines actions to build a comprehensive, coordinated, consumer focused and compassionate mental health and suicide prevention system to support all Australians.
The National Agreement will clarify roles and responsibilities; progress improvements in the mental health services available to adults, children and youth; improve data collection, sharing and evaluation; reduce gaps in the system of care; expand and enhance the workforce, including the peer workforce; and work to improve mental health and suicide prevention for all Australians, across a range of settings.
The Government continues to make mental health a national priority, investing a record $6.5 billion in mental health and suicide prevention services and supports in 2021-22, doubling since 2012-13.
This includes $2.3 billion in the 2021-22 Budget for the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan to lead landmark reform of the mental health system.
Australians who need support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can access the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au
Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline
(13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.
Young Australians needing support can access free services through Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), their local headspace or online through eheadspace (https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/).