Funding system fails mental health needs in the bush

The National Mental Health Commission says the availability of mental health services in the bush can be patchy even though the need is high.

At a national rural health conference in Darwin today, the Commission's chief executive said it was time to start reforming mental health services so people could get the help they need.

The CEO of the national mental health commission David Butt says mental health needs are often higher in the bush, but services are harder to come by.

At a national rural health conference in Darwin today he spoke about the need for change to make sure people across the country get the help they need.
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Online chat rooms could be future of remote mental health, experts says

Online treatment programs are being flagged as a solution to the high rates of suicide in remote and rural Australia.

Mental health experts say people living in remote, regional and rural parts of Australia are more vulnerable to mental health problems because of poor socio-economic conditions and a lack of accessible services.

The Mental Health Commission's chief executive David Butt said bad housing, high unemployment and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease all add up to increased levels of psychological distress.

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Call for greater funding to tackle role of brain injuries in domestic violence cases

An advocacy group is calling for budget funding for early intervention services for acquired brain injury, a condition which can lead to domestic violence.

The condition affects the frontal lobe and can cause limited patience as well as aggressive and violent behaviour.

The Brain Injury Association of Tasmania wants the State Government to provide early intervention services so the behaviour associated with acquired brain injury does not lead to domestic violence.

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Doctors in crisis as their working conditions fuel psychological distress

Australia has a serious problem, beyondblue Chairman The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC has said, because many of the medical professionals who the public turns to for help are overworked, stressed, depressed, dependent on alcohol or other substances and are at risk of suicide.

Mr Kennett has urged all Australians to watch Four Corners on the ABC tomorrow as the program investigates the pressure Australian doctors face in the workplace.

The investigation follows the known sudden deaths of four young doctors this year and reports of improper working conditions, sexual harassment and bullying within the health system. In 2013, beyondblue conducted a world-first survey of doctors’ and medical students’ mental health and discovered that they experience much higher rates of suicidal thoughts and psychological distress than the general community.

 Mr Kennett said the recent troubling reports showed more must be done to address this situation.

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Keeping body and mind together: Improving the physical health and life expectancy of people with a serious mental illness (report)

The RANZCP report reveals that about the high rate of physical illness among people with mental illness in Australia and New Zealand (as well as other developed countries).

This comorbidity compounds the disadvantages already experienced by people with mental illness and is associated with a far shorter life expectancy.

Some estimates suggest that the lives of both men and women with serious mental illness are up to 30% shorter than those of the general population (Piatt et al., 2010) and Australian research indicates that the gap is increasing rather than diminishing (Lawrence et al., 2013).
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Iron in the brain boosts Alzheimer's risk

High levels of iron in the brain indicates you are more likely to develop Alzheimer's, say researchers.

The findings, published in in Nature Communications, suggest it might be possible to arrest the disease using drugs that remove iron from the brain.

"We think that iron is contributing to the disease progression of Alzheimer's disease," says neuroscientist Dr Scott Ayton from the University of Melbourne. "This is strong evidence to base a clinical trial on lowering iron content in the brain to see if that would impart a cognitive benefit."
Ayton says iron was first implicated in Alzheimer's disease in the 1950s, following post mortem studies showing higher iron levels in the brains of those with the disease.

"But there has been debate for a long period of time whether this is important or whether it's just a coincidence," says Ayton.

To help settle this question, Ayton and colleagues studied the link between iron and Alzheimer's disease in three groups of people: 91 people with normal cognition; 144 people with mild cognitive impairment; and 67 people with Alzheimer's disease.

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Audit puts a cap on petrol sniffing

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's (PM&C) management of initiatives to supply low aromatic fuel (LAF) to Aboriginal communities to reduce petrol-sniffing has been found to be effective and well-documented.

In his report, Delivery of the petrol sniffing strategy in remote Indigenous communities, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, said research results indicated that the introduction of LAF 'has been successful in contributing to reductions in the incidence of petrol sniffing'.

Mr McPhee said that in 2005, a type of LAF was developed by BP Australia as a substitute to regular unleaded petrol (RULP) and the Australian Government commenced supporting its distribution to communities.

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Focus on rural health at Darwin

THE biggest event on the Australian rural and remote health calendar starts next Sunday, May 24, at the Darwin Convention Centre.  More than 1000 delegates will come together to help achieve better health and wellbeing for people living in rural and remote areas during the 13th National Rural Health Conference.  Over the four days delegates will share their experiences of the challenges that remote and rural communities have been faced with and overcome. More importantly, they will develop innovative solutions for better health and celebrate what a great place rural and remote Australia is to live in.  The conference will see the formation of a powerful if temporary community, based on the common interests of people from around the nation. They will represent the entire range of health and other caring professions, all of them determined to put rural and remote health in the policy spotlight and improve wellbeing on the ground.

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The Dementia Epidemic: Is Australia Prepared?

Industry experts, people living with dementia, carers and researchers will share their expertise and stories at a first-of-its-kind forum on dementia on Wednesday 20 May at the University of Sydney.

With more than 1,800 new cases in Australia each week, dementia is predicted to be one of the biggest public health issues we will ever face.

"It's forecast that in about twenty years dementia will be the number one killer of Australians and the most expensive health disorder," said Associate Professor Michael Valenzuela, Leader of Regenerative Neuroscience Group at the University's Brain and Mind Research Institute.

Would you want to know you are at risk of dementia in the future? Is prevention possible? And can we really support people to live well with this disease? Different perspectives will be uncovered in a free Sydney Ideas public forum hosted by the University of Sydney.

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Launch of new tool for greater insight into service gaps

On Tuesday 5 May Commissioner John Feneley attended the launch of the Western Sydney Partners in Recovery Mental Health Atlas, a new tool to plot the scope of mental health services across western Sydney.

At the launch John spoke of the lack of integration of mental health services, which can be difficult to navigate for consumer, carers and even service providers themselves.

“The Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW highlights the importance of integrated community-based care and local action for reform.

“The Mental Health Atlas is a major step forward in facilitating local action that will benefit the lives of people who experience mental health issues. We need tools like these to be able to see what our services look like now in order to monitor positive change in the future,” John said.

Visit the Mental Health Atlas at

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Rural health care overlooked again

Charles Sturt University (CSU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Vann and La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar have expressed disappointment the Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) initiative was again overlooked in the 2015 budget.

The MDMS would provide undergraduate medical training from campuses in Bendigo, Orange, and Wagga Wagga, and reserve 80 per cent of enrolments for rural, regional and Indigenous students.
The Vice-Chancellors said recent evidence showed the current training arrangements were failing rural and regional communities, and the Government had missed the opportunity to improve the supply of GPs and specialists in rural and regional Australia.

"Only last month, Rural Health Workforce Australia reported that 'less than 5 per cent of [Australian medical] graduates intend to practise in rural areas [as GPs]'," Professor Vann said.

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Budget 2015: Doctors say health funding cuts could hit crucial services

Health groups say important services like drug and alcohol treatment and research could be axed as part of programs targeted for savings in the federal budget.

More than $960 million in savings was announced in a rationalisation of some health programs. Just under $600 million of that comes from the department's "flexible funds".

Australian Medical Association president Dr Brian Owler said important organisations funded through the grants needed to plan for their future and continue their important work.

"There is a lot of uncertainty as to whether those programs, those important organisations such as Palliative Care Australia, Alzheimers Australia, the Foundation for Alcohol Research Education and many other non-government organisations are going to continued to be funded," he said.

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National taskforce hears the drug ice is taking a massive toll on regional health workers

The national taskforce set up to tackle the scourge of crystal methamphetamine or ice has heard the drug is taking a massive toll on frontline health workers in regional and remote areas.

The taskforce has begun consultations and has met with regional health organisations.

Professor Richard Murray is the Dean of the College of Medicine at James Cook University and a member of the taskforce. He has told Lindy Kerin health workers have reported feeling ill equipped to deal with the problem.

RICHARD MURRAY: Ice is a highly addictive substance. It's becoming increasingly available all around the country, but including in regional areas, relatively easy to get hold of, in many places quite effective it would seem systems of distribution.

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Remote Hope

Remote Hope: An unflinching portrait of Australia's remote Indigenous communities and their struggle to survive.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently provoked furious debate by describing life in these communities as a "lifestyle choice" and the Commonwealth has withdrawn its funding.

Communities in Western Australia are now facing possible closure, provoking protests around the country. But this Four Corners report confronts the uncomfortable truth about life in these communities.

The Four Corners team travelled across the rugged Kimberley region of Western Australia to visit some of the settlements under threat.

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Rates of abuse highest against rural women

RURAL women are one-and-a-half times more likely to experience sexual abuse and domestic violence than their city sisters, and according to statistics the home is the most dangerous place for them says Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia executive officer, Karen Willis.  Ms Willis addressed a voluntary session of the CWA of NSW state conference this month, saying more federal fund was needed to combat what is a growing issue.  "We often think of the city being dangerous place but for women George St - the main drag in Sydney - is probably about the safest place you can be," she said.

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Australia lagging on funding for mental health services, says Mental Illness Fellowship

The voices have ceased for now, but Shane Bell knows all too well the dangers of skipping his medication.

"It's rather scary. You lose all contact with the reality of things," Mr Bell said. The 46-year-old has lived with schizophrenia for about 14 years, which included debilitating periods of psychosis.

Mr Bell is one of 230,000 Australians with the illness, though psychiatrists think many people hide the illness.

Schizophrenia attacks the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which psychiatrist Dr Robert Parker said essentially means it undermines a person's ability to perceive reality and solve problems.

New program helps Aboriginal people give gambling the punt

WITH an estimated one in every five Aboriginal people in Australia battling gambling addiction a new program designed to tackle the problem was launched in Orange on Tuesday.

The manager of the Warruwi Gambling Help program Ashley Gordon said it’s important for Orange’s health, housing and welfare sectors to work together to address the problem and look for solutions.

Mr Gordon said the state government funded Warruwi Gambling Help program focuses on around 30 Aboriginal communities a year, with Orange one of the cities it will focus on over the next 12 months.

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Mother touched four times by suicide given mental health review role

A Brisbane mother who has lost four family members to suicide will have an ongoing role in a review of Queensland's mental health treatment.

Kerrie Keepa met with Health Minister Cameron Dick on Tuesday to call for an urgent upgrade in training for hospital accident and emergency staff.

"I honestly do appreciate that emergency departments in hospitals are resource and time poor. But the staff need to receive specialised training and support on how to recognise and respond to 'at risk' patients of suicide if we are to reduce the loss of precious lives."

She said she received a favourable hearing for her request for training for emergency department staff from Mr Dick, who on Saturday announced a three-month review of Queensland's Mental Health Act.

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New website to help in Understanding Anxiety

The Mental Health Association of NSW (MHA) has launched a new website, Understanding Anxiety, which was made possible by funding from the NSW Mental Health Commission.

The new website features a host of resources including videos from leading practitioners and researchers, symptom checklists, fact sheets that have been translated into 22 different languages, and a comprehensive guide to getting help for anxiety.

Understanding Anxiety is a repository of important and helpful information for people living with anxiety disorders, from recognising the symptoms to finding the right help to manage it effectively,” Commissioner John Feneley said.

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