Australian College of Mental Health Nurses welcomes Mental Health and Suicide Prevention report recommendations

Friday 5 November 2021

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) welcomes the final report by the Australian House of Representatives Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and strongly endorses the recommendation to appoint a chief mental health nurse.

The Select Committee’s final report has highlighted a system in peril and in desperate need of reform. The report brought forward 44 recommendations to help Australia chart a way forward to tackle the mental health, suicidality, and social and emotional wellbeing crisis exacerbated by natural disasters and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The College feels encouraged by the recognition that both climate change and the pandemic have had an ongoing impact on Australians’ mental wellbeing, and that mental health services have been buckling under the pressure for a long time,” said ACMHN President, Conjoint Professor Mike Hazelton.

The report also highlighted the need for appointing a chief mental health nurse to work alongside the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, and encouraged states and territories to adopt an equivalent position.

“We’re delighted to hear that the Select Committee recognises the incredible work of mental health nurses (MHNs) as reflected by this recommendation,” Conjoint Professor Hazelton said.

“We hope that establishing the role of a federal chief mental health nurse would continue to highlight MHNs' key role in helping those struggling with their mental health, and will pave the way for more policy change that enables MHNs to provide the full range of their skills in the future.”

Furthermore, the report recommended adding Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items to support case conferencing in the treatment of mental illness for health professional attendance, including MHNs.

“We always welcome the expansion of MBS items to qualified MHNs. However, we do believe that broader access, similar to the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program, would be substantially more effective,” Conjoint Professor Hazelton said.

The Select Committee also recommended that government work with peak psychiatry bodies to develop a workforce strategy that maximises access to the expert skills of psychiatrists for those with complex and serious mental illness, including through increasing support for MHNs to provide pre- and post-appointment services.

“While it’s good to see that there’s a focus on supporting MHNs, we believe that MHNs can do so much more than pre- and post-appointment services,” Conjoint Professor Hazelton said.

“Credentialed Mental Health Nurses, recognised by the College, have a broad set of skills that allow them to treat complex mental health conditions in conjunction with physical ailments. They often bring postgraduate qualifications and years of extensive experience working in various settings, and are equally as qualified as other mental health professionals.”

“We call on government to ensure that they focus their efforts on qualified MHNs, and to work with the ACMHN to identify these.”

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Australian College of Mental Health Nurses press release, mental health nursing, suicide prevention

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