We had the good fortune of having Dr Nathan Gibson, Chief Psychiatrist for WA, speak to staff last month at our Organisational Development Day. We asked Dr Gibson to tell us about the directions of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist and he did so and also included how that direction intersected with our work in youth and adult mental health.
Engagement with stakeholders is crucial to ensure that our mental health system works well for all. In Western Australia, we spend more per capita on mental health than other states, with 30% of the State health budget specifically allocated for mental health services. However, there is room for improvement.
Despite these efforts, Western Australia's mental health status still needs improvement. Patients in the public sector have less time than other jurisdictions, and the suicide rate is above the national average. However, the majority of mental health care in Western Australia is in the community sector, which highlights the need for integration and the right types of beds in the right places. Community specialist mental health pathways still need to mature, but regional areas are leading the way in flexibility, creativity, and innovation in integrating sectors.
To address these challenges, the Mental Health Commission is focusing on specialist community mental health services and step-up/step-down programs. In addition, there is a need for greater cohesion between the community-managed sector, with better coordination to increase the value of government funding. Furthermore, the mental health workforce in Western Australia needs to be more creative with lower staff numbers, better coordination of community resources, and a focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
One group that often gets overlooked are those without a diagnosis. They are currently not getting the care they need, and there is little discussion around this issue. To address this, we need to minimize gaps in mental health care and ensure that everyone gets the help they need.
Together, we can work towards a more knowledgeable and steady mental health system that prioritizes the wellbeing of all. Let's continue to join up the dots for consumers and work towards integrating sectors for better mental health care in Western Australia.
He finished by saying, “knowledge, steady progress, and working together are key to improving mental health in Western Australia. We need to integrate sectors and prioritize the mental health needs of all individuals, regardless of their diagnosis. We can all play a role in this effort by advocating for mental health care, supporting those in need, and working towards a brighter future.” Dr Gibson sent high praise for our team following his presentation: “Thank-you very much for the opportunity to meet your team, review the Peel collaboration and speak. Your team’s professionalism and strategic focus for the needs of the local community were key perceptions on the day."
GP down south is an exemplary not-for-profit community organisation. We have been providing health and wellbeing services in the Peel regions and the South West of WA since 1994.