Mental health nurses stand ready to support Australia's youth - if only government let them

Thursday 18 November 2021

Australia’s mental health care services are ill-prepared to support youth with complex mental health needs. Qualified mental health nurses are uniquely placed to help, but lack of access to Medicare Benefits Schedule items is continuing to hold them back.

New research from the University of Sydney has found that two in three young people with emerging mental health issues did not experience meaningful improvement during two years of early intervention.

 “It is disappointing to see that young people experiencing mental ill-health continue to suffer poor outcomes when help could be more readily available,” Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) Vice-President Professor John Hurley said.

The study suggested that Australia needs more multidisciplinary, team-based care to treat the long-term needs of young people.

In an interview with ABC’s Health Report, 2021 Australian Mental Health Prize winner and co-author of the research Professor Ian Hickie said that medical personnel, such as GPs, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and occupational therapists need to work in teams with employment and education support workers and mental health nurses (MHNs) to achieve the best outcomes for consumers.

“We strongly support the idea that qualified MHNs form a core part of those multidisciplinary teams. They bring in-depth experience in caring for those with complex needs, and have a unique understanding of mental and physical health and how they interact,” Professor Hurley said.

Yet, the Medicare system doesn’t provide for the type of care that qualified MHNs are ready to supply.

“Credentialed Mental Health Nurses have extremely limited access to MBS item numbers, which effectively locks them out of providing the care that young people with complex needs so desperately require,” Professor Hurley said.

“If government is serious about addressing this issue, they should consider broadening access to MBS item numbers. Young people deserve the best care that qualified MHNs are ready to provide.”

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Australian College of Mental Health Nurses press release, mental health nursing, mental health policy Australia, youth mental health

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