On Saturday, 17 August we held our first Conference - Rethinking Mental Health: New Approaches in Primary Care.
Held in the Blue Mountains, the conference brought together experts from around Australia to provide new insights on the impact of mental illness in our region and talk about new ways to manage mental health in primary care.
Our region has approximately 387,000 residents and this year alone approximately 90,000 (23%) will be at risk of mental illness and a further 65,000 (17%) will likely experience a mental illness.
The latest available population data (2016-17) shows that the rates of mental illness in our region are higher than the NSW average. Our suicide rate is the highest among NSW metropolitan local health districts and our rates of hospitalisations for self-harm are also higher than the NSW average.
Primary healthcare is often the first port of call for people experiencing mental illness and supporting our regional healthcare workforce is an integral part of what we do. We were fortunate to be able to fund this event through the Federal Government’s Empowering our Communities Program.
Over 120 clinicians, from a range of disciplines, attended including GPs, psychologists, practice nurses, mental health nurses, social workers, pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapists, chiropractors and community services workers. This multi-disciplinary setting made the conference an integrated experience and enabled genuine networking, creating opportunities for future collaboration.
I was fortunate to attend the conference and many of clinicians I spoke to told me how valuable they found it. This was echoed in the feedback forms we received:
“Thank you, great to connect with so many health professionals and providers from our region...”
“This was a very worthwhile experience, each session was excellent and thought provoking and allows me to find extra things to focus on with my work and ways to help patients. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend.”
“Thank you for a great conference! [My favourite part was] getting to talk with a variety of practitioners and the clear and interesting information from presenters…”
“Plenary speakers were of high quality with relevant topics. Hard to have a favourite – all excellent!”
“Every session was interesting and thought provoking.”
“Thank you for this conference! It was fantastic and very worthwhile.”
As well as giving new clinical insights, part of the conference was dedicated to encouraging health professionals to take care of their own well-being. We often talk about stigma as a barrier for the community in seeking support, but several speakers touched on the issue of stigma as a barrier for clinicians in seeking help for their own mental health. Feedback received has shown how important this particular topic was and how helpful the sessions were that dealt with this issue.
I would like to thank all those who attended this event for helping to make the day such a success.