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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5191

Ms PARKE (FremantleParliamentary Secretary For Homelessness and Social Housing and Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health) (12:44): I am very grateful to the member for La Trobe for her excellent question. She is absolutely right to say that the government is seized by the importance of extending the reach and effectiveness of mental health services, precisely because mental illness affects one in three Australians at some point in their lifetimes. Because it represents the third-largest cause of the disease burden in Australia after cardiovascular disease and cancer, it is the single largest cause of disability and it is the largest risk factor for suicide which, of course, has tragic impact on individuals, families and communities. Yet, less than half of all Australians suffering from a mental illness actually receive any form of treatment. So we know that more needs to be done and we know that a significant part of the challenge lies in creating modes of service that not only increase capacity overall but also better serve and welcome people who have not been able to access or who have not felt comfortable accessing traditional healthcare services.

In addressing the health service gap, the government has invested substantially in the National Mental Health Reform package including in the area of E-mental health. The government's e-mental health strategy released in July last year includes our ongoing support for tele-web measures like Lifeline and Kids Helpline and the government's online mental health portal called mindhealthconnect, as well as our new mental health clinic called MindSpot. While some might believe that e-mental health is necessarily a second-best option to be used when face-to-face services are not available, in fact online support will in many cases be a preferred option for a large number of Australians.

As noted already, one of the biggest problems in the mental health space is the large number of people who never receive any care in relation to their distress or anguish. This is often because of social and/or geographic isolation and the associated stigma that people suffering with mental health conditions often face or fear. Experience has already shown, through fantastic programs funded by the government including ReachOut, and eheadspace and now MindSpot, that many Australians actually welcome the opportunity to access mental health information and support online. Indeed, the delivery of expanded telephone and internet mental healthcare services and the creation of new and innovative forms of care using communication technology, especially with the National Broadband Network, will help us reach some of the groups that presently go unheard and unhelped—mainly young people, men and people living in regional and rural and remote Australia.

Online and telephone services allow people to control their access to health care so that they get care when they need it at no cost, with no need to travel and in a way that affords them greater privacy or anonymity than traditional face-to-face services. Experience has shown that once people have accessed information and support online then they are much more likely to then be willing to access more traditional forms of care. Part of the strength of the government's new online mental health clinic, MindSpot, is that it offers a stepped care approach in which each client is carefully assessed by a clinician to ensure that they receive the right care for their individual needs.

MindSpot has funding of $14.9 million over three years to 2014-15 to deliver free online and telephone cognitive behavioural therapy to an estimated 30,000 people experiencing high-prevalence mild to moderate disorders, including anxiety and depression. Approximately one in five Australians suffer depression or anxiety each year, with only 35 per cent consulting a health professional and less than half receiving evidence based treatment. The MindSpot service is being delivered seven days a week from its headquarters at Macquarie University under the direction of Professor Nick Titov and his 25-strong team of psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health workers. It was my privilege on 3 May this year to formally launch this new and innovative online clinical service, which has been operating since December.

MindSpot is already proving its value as a high-volume, quality service for people suffering from anxiety and depression, with early statistics showing a steady increase in the number of new patients and new assessments per week and a very high level of patient satisfaction. As of the formal launch date, 2,400 people had commenced assessments through MindSpot at an average of 35 per day. Of those who access this service, 42 per cent had never previously discussed their anxiety or depression with a health professional.

The proportional use of the service by people in the various states and territories matches the distribution of the population, which shows that online and telephone services can be headquartered anywhere and still provide effective national coverage. MindSpot is an important and innovative part of the national government's— (Time expired)