Authors: Maureen Lewis
Event: 2018 TheMHS Conference
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Introduction Most Australians are unaware of the alarming fact that on average people with a serious mental illness die younger than the general population by between 14 and 23 years. Despite the significant mental health reform in Australia over recent years, the reality for many Australians living with mental illness is that their life journey is compounded by physical conditions that are often undiagnosed and untreated, as their physical health needs are ‘overshadowed’ by their mental health condition. Purpose The purpose of this symposium is to highlight the issues pertaining to co-existing mental and physical health conditions and promote ways in which change can be achieved across the health sector and in communities to improve the physical health of people living with mental illness in Australia. Background The interaction of mental illness with other chronic diseases is one of the biggest challenges to public health systems in Australia, with four out of every five people living with a mental illness also having a co-existing physical illness. There is increasing evidence that the deterioration of physical health in people living with mental illness is preventable. People living with mental illness generally have poor quality health care and poor access to services, which can also be compounded by a lack of education, social exclusion, low income, inadequate housing, and experiences of stigma and discrimination. The National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) led the development of Equally Well – the National Consensus Statement on Improving the physical health and wellbeing of people living with mental illness in Australia (Equally Well) drawing inspiration from our New Zealand colleagues’ work, and the leadership of other voices in Australia who advocated for a health system where the consumer is at the center of everything, in more localised and personalised models of care. Context Equally Well identifies six essential elements that describe what best practice looks like, providing guidance to health services, and importantly, to consumers, carers, families and the community. Equally Well serves to inform collaboration to effectively manage co-existing health needs and has been identified as a priority area in the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. In 2017, the Equally Well Implementation Committee (EWIC) was established as the national leadership group to oversee, lead, and coordinate the implementation of the Equally Well in Australia. EWIC members represent a broad range of stakeholders including General Practitioners, Nurses, Psychiatrists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Private Health, Consumers and Carers, Primary Health Networks (PHNs), Governments, Community Managed Organisations (CMOs), and Academics. Plan This symposium, chaired by the Commission, will run for 90 minutes. Following an initial presentation on the background of Equally Well, three presentations from EWIC members and stakeholders will showcase initiatives being undertaken to put the six essential elements of Equally Well into practice. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers following each presentation, with an additional 20 minutes allocated at the conclusion of the presentations for panel discussion, questions and answers. • Kim Ryan, CEO, Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) will present on the vital role nurses play in supporting the physical health of people with a mental illness. Kim Ryan will discuss how the ACMHN is undertaking work to upskill nurses to better support both the mental health and physical health care of people. • John Allan, Executive Director, Queensland Health will address issues relating to the significant disparity in smoking prevalence between the general population and people experiencing mental illness in Australia. John Allan will discuss how the Mental Health Clinical Collaborative in Queensland has used quality improvement payments with considerable success to help people admitted to hospital to enter a pathway for tobacco cessation. • Arthur Papakotsias, CEO, Neami National will provide an overview of his organisation’s active work prior to the release of the Equally Well consensus statement. Arthur Papakotsias will outline a number of programs, resources and initiatives Neami National has developed and will discuss the role of CMOs in promoting the physical health of people living with mental illness. Lyn English, Deputy Co-Chair, National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum will bring a consumer perspective, discussing the role of consumers, carers, and support people in advocating for equal access to health care. Concluding Statement The symposium will be a valuable opportunity for participants to see the various ways in which Equally Well is being implemented by organisations and will serve to inspire participants to consider ways in which they may potentially reform policies, services, and programs in their respective areas of work. The consumer story will also highlight the importance of tackling this issue and ensure that people living with mental illness, as well as their carers and support people, are equipped with the knowledge and tools to address their physical health needs.
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