Improving mental healthcare services

Seven research projects were recently awarded funding thanks to our partnership with Equity Trustees. This collaboration recognises high impact research projects that directly benefit children and those suffering with cancer, heart disease and depression. The following highlights one of the funded projects: Improving mental healthcare services – Perceived need for mental health care, learning from what Australians say in two decades of national surveys. We spoke to project lead Dr Joanne Enticott about the project.

What is your project addressing?

Facing additional challenges such as the 2020 bushfires, COVID pandemic, and 2022 floods is known to negatively impact mental health. It is critical to explore and understand what Australians report are the best options to meet any need for mental healthcare support. This is critical to inform future services spending and implementation of evidenced based initiatives to support improvements in mental health, especially in primary care where most Australian mental healthcare is delivered.

This research will critically support Australian mental health policy towards positively influencing population mental health.

Is there a need for this particular project?

Over two in five Australians aged 16-85 years (43.7% or 8.6 million people) report experiencing a mental disorder at some time in their life. Depression and anxiety impact one in five Australians yearly, and account for 24% of the burden of disability – the second highest in Australia. Mental health services are accessed by an estimated 12% of Australian adults even prior to the COVID pandemic. Mental health services spending is more than $11B and rising 2% annually.

Understanding what Australians report as best meeting their needs is required to ensure that mental health services (primary, secondary and tertiary services) can achieve maximal impacts.

What is the aim of the project?

This project will:

  • Identify the mental health services identified by consumers as being preferred for their mental health care
  • Investigate the differences in consumer-reported needs based on geographical and socio-ethno-demographic differences
  • Co-develop with consumers and stakeholders, and then build consensus on optimal mental healthcare combinations and wellbeing strategies
  • Create a policy toolbox to assist policy makers to implement these evidenced-based mental health strategies.

What stage is the project at? 

The start! Recruiting a data analyst, and commenced planning for the initial meeting with stakeholders.

What are the early insights into the project?

Our stakeholder team, includes consumers and professional body leaders (including GPs and mental health clinicians) are highly engaged and keen to start.

What outcomes will the project see?

This research will build Australia’s evidence-base on what Australians perceive as the best mental health strategies, and rapidly translate this evidence into achieving public health impact within five years. The findings will inform policy to shape better combinations/types/blends of healthcare to meet the needs of Australians.

The impact of this current project will also assist to secure further funding for independent research, leveraging from these initial findings to co-develop a national core outcomes and dashboard, reporting key mental health information and statistics that transparently displays national-level mental health indicators that Australians want to see.


Watch this space for future project developments.