New partnership improving mental health services

Ground-breaking mental health research will investigate how South Australians with a lived experience can improve the design and delivery of support services, by underpinning a new collaboration between Flinders University’s Órama Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing and Flourish Australia.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations reflects a shared commitment to involving people with lived experience in any research, service development, innovation, or mental health policy reform activities.

One initial area of research focus for the MOU will be addressing the absence of preventative and early interventions to build mental health rather than focusing only on illness or disorder.

This gap in services often means people who are too unwell for primary care but not in need of in-patient or state-based services find it difficult to access appropriate support near their area.

Professor Mike Kyrios from the Órama Institute for Mental Health & Wellbeing says one in two Australians are likely to experience a mental health issue in their lifetime; so, investing in evidence-based services and support is vital for the health of all Australians.

“We know from research that we can improve mental health and help develop resilience. The challenge has been providing access to preventative wellbeing programs to the Australian community, particularly those that are most at risk of developing mental health problems during crises.”

Flourish Australia is a community-based mental health service provider which has built one of Australia’s largest peer workforces, with more than 50 percent of the people employed having had a lived experience of a mental health issue.

“Flourish Australia is proud to be partnering with one of Australia’s leading education and research institutions to develop innovation in mental health support,” said Mark Orr, chief executive of Flourish Australia.

“We know from our own peer workforce that offering authentic support helps people see a way forward and make positive changes. Peer work is the future of mental health and to see it evaluated it at the highest scientific level is an incredible opportunity.”

Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton MP, Professor Mike Kyrios from the Órama Institute for Mental Health & Wellbeing, Flourish Australia Chief Executive Mark Orr and Órama Institute Director Professor Tracey Wade.

Flourish Australia is exploring establishing a psychosocial service in Northern Adelaide. With a focus on establishing a peer workforce, it would offer both mental health support and employment opportunities to people living in the area. This would be its first venture into South Australia and would be supported as part of the MOU.

Under the MOU, the Órama Institute and Flourish Australia will collaborate on research, education, training and micro credential programs with the aim of improving access to services for people with lived experience of a mental health issue and ultimately bolster Australia’s mental health systems and services.

Increased demand on the mental health system, such as that witnessed during COVID-19 and after the 2019/20 summer bushfires only exacerbates the inability of people to access support.

Flourish Australia and the Órama Institute will investigate how a peer or non-professional mental health workforce could be upskilled to support people with pre-existing or arising mental health issues through preventative and early intervention programs.

This new mental health workforce could be mobilised to support people at times of national crisis to meet demand within Australia’s mental health system.

“Early intervention and preventative support, particularly at times of national crisis, could mean mental health issues in the community don’t develop further into mental illness,” Professor Kyrios said.

The MOU was signed at Flinders University’s Bedford Park Campus on Tuesday 23 February 2021.

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