Call To Fill Mental Health Void
The Sydney Morning Herald
Danny Rose, AAP Medical Writer
November 24, 2010
Australia should trial a UK-based program that is helping people with moderate depression and anxiety, and which could fill a major gap in existing services, says a leading psychiatrist.
The nation's thinly spread mental health services can focus on the acute or crisis-support ends of the spectrum, leaving many people with milder though still debilitating problems without a treatment option.
Associate Professor Michael Baigent said a service such as the UK's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) program was proven to be effective at reaching and helping these people.
It has operated successfully since 2005, and a roll out in Australia would ensure a "greeted rather than bounced" response for people whose lives would benefit from treatment.
For many, their only choice now was to see a GP to obtain a referral to see a psychologist.
"… And it is easier to be prescribed an anti-depressant, in many cases, than it is to get psychological treatment," said Dr Baigent who is clinical adviser to Beyondblue.
"We know that only a small percentage of people who have anxiety and depression actually access services.
"And a smaller percentage of those access psychological treatment – though there are many, many people who would benefit from a service such as this."
Dr Baigent said an Australian version of the IAPT could offer online e-therapy, telephone support and other forms of self-help strategies guided by trained professionals.
People enter the service by calling a central phone number rather than having to see a GP first.
They are assessed by a social worker, rural counsellor or Aboriginal health worker trained to take part in the program.
Those viewed as needing more intensive help – such as anyone at risk of self-harm – were still referred to a more acute-style service but the focus was on providing "rapid access" to "evidence-based therapies" and anonymously if sought.
In its first year, the IAPT had contact with more than 130,000 people in the UK.
"We're talking about increasing access for treatment of mental health and depression at large, and people should be positive about that," Dr Baigent said.
He said it was hoped funding could be secured to stage a trial of the program in Australia sometime next year.
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This article can be found on The Sydney Morning Herald website: http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/call-to-fill-mental-health-void-20101124-1877j.html