A collaborative research project bringing together industry, academia and government will look to improve both the understanding and the navigation of Australia’s increasingly complex mental health and wellbeing environment.

The initiative, coordinated by the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) and involving the University of Canberra, Swinburne University of Technology, Capital Health Network, Psicost Research Association, and Bupa Foundation, will ultimately look to create a user-friendly tool to help professionals, planners and consumers more easily navigate the mental health care system.

Almost half of all Australian adults will face mental ill-health during their lives but Australia’s complex and disjointed mental healthcare system is preventing individuals from accessing treatment in an efficient and effective manner.

Associate Professor Amir Aryani from Swinburne said the goal was to co-design, develop, implement and review the effectiveness of a care navigation platform – the Local Mental Health Care Operational Navigation Chart (MChart) – to better facilitate the navigation of mental health care services by all stakeholders along the journey.

“This project will develop, test, and implement a multi-applicable, multi-modal and multi-level framework and the related tools to navigate the local mental health system by clinicians, decision-makers and planners (MChart-P), as well as consumers and carers (MChart-C),” Associate Professor Aryani said.

“Once implemented and tested in the ACT, it is hoped this set of tools can be scaled up and adopted on a national level.”

Professor Luis Salvador-Carulla, Co-Deputy Director of the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra said the difficulty with accessing the right services and support is a result of a highly fragmented system and mental health services not being appropriately mapped and this is creating a significant barrier to improving health outcomes.

“For the past five years our team has been working extensively to map the mental health provision in our country. We have already completed the description of service provision in one third of the Australian Primary Health Networks covering 50% of the population, and our method has been tested in over 35 countries around the world,” Professor Salvador-Carulla said.
”Our next goal is to use this knowledge to produce the best navigation tool of the mental healthcare system in Australia.”

DHCRC CEO Annette Schmiede said the impact of COVID-19 on mental health was still being felt with the higher demand for mental healthcare furthering the need for the radical transformation of the delivery of mental health care in Australia.

“The development of a more professional and capable community mental health sector is one of the central challenges facing mental health reform in Australia now,” Ms Schmiede said.

“The navigation platform MChart has a unique potential impact in this environment; to improve efficiency of the care system, reduce waste of care, and increase wellbeing of the population at need.”

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