New roadmap for children’s mental health and well-being

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The new national strategy takes into account the recommendations of the RACGP according to which general practitioners are at the heart of the current process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mental health problems among children and youth.


In February this year, the RACGP submitted recommendations to the National Mental Health Commission on the role of general practitioners in children’s mental health and well-being, as part of a draft national strategy.

The federal government launched the world premiere this week National Strategy on Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being (the strategy), providing the framework to ensure that a solid foundation is established in childhood.

As part of Australia’s long-term national health plan, the strategy is designed to implement a preventive, integrated and community-based approach to maintaining and supporting the mental health and well-being of children aged 0 to 12 years and their families.

General practitioner Dr James Best, president of the RACGP Specific Interests Child and Adolescent Health and a member of the pediatric strategy expert advisory group that developed the report, is satisfied with the initial plan.

“They largely listened to what the college was asking,” he said gp news.

“The strategies are very well thought out and strategically sound, which required a lot of expert input, and the principles of the report are commendable.

“In particular, the emphasis that has been removed from being a pathological or diagnostic approach and more focused on a continuum of well-being is really consistent with what we know about how children function and on the impact of mental health problems on them. “

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mental health problems among children and youth, with lockdowns, school closures and vulnerable households putting this population at risk.

With general practitioners being the most consulted mental health provider for children aged 0-12, the strategic report describes their role in assessment and referral pathways, including for mental health services and systems of the child are closely integrated into general practice.

Dr Best said the integrated care model is a key recommendation of the college submission to ensure that general practitioners have a central and continuing involvement in the prevention and management of children’s mental health.

‘The [strategy] the report is right and took note of the essential role of primary care, in particular general medicine, in this area, ”he said.

“The emphasis on observing the child in a family or community setting is very helpful, and it is also absorbed by the principles of general practice. “

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the strategy is based on the knowledge that adequate support can improve long-term outcomes and help children reach their full potential in life.

“To ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and supportive environment that helps them, their families and their communities to thrive, we need a well-designed mental health and wellness system. , comprehensive and nationally consistent, ”he said. .

The strategy describes the requirements of an effective child care system using four focus areas:

  • Family and community
  • Service system
  • Education settings
  • Proof and evaluation

Increasing the mental health literacy of parents and caregivers to support children through evidence-based programs and resources, with particular support for communities with the highest levels of need, is part of the area of ​​focus. family and community.

Rather than systems “siled between different professionals”, the focus on the service system will support accessible, equitable and coordinated systems. According to Dr Best, all of this is relevant to general practice.

“To develop a set of qualified professions to deal with children with mental health problems or at risk for mental health problems…” said Dr Best.

As part of the collaborative care model, another key recommendation of the college’s submission, the strategy will update current Medicare elements to promote collaborative care and ensure patient access to Medicare-funded psychological therapy sessions. This will allow all health care providers to:

  • case conference request
  • request for consultation with parents and guardians without the presence of the child as part of the custody of the child
  • communicate with educators and other service providers about a child’s treatment and support plan.

In the area of ​​evidence and evaluation, the strategy promises to ensure better collection and use of data by working with experts to address current barriers to sharing across sectors such as education, justice and others. community health, with the aim of informing the mental health and well-being of children. .

It will also assess the delivery of programs and services to report on the findings required to receive targeted funding based on research gaps and the needs of priority populations.

Dr Best said funding and policy aspects are important long-term considerations.

“Now it’s really up to the government to see what kind of response, what kind of problems it comes up with in terms of funding and policy,” he said. “And I really hope the government’s response is strong, because this is such a critical area.

“Even if we look at it from a purely economic perspective, the humanistic and social justice principles of caring for children who have or are at risk for mental health problems, it is an area and an investment. extremely expensive.

“It has been estimated that a lack of early intervention in these areas costs the economy over $ 15 billion a year on track – it’s absolutely huge.

“I hope the policy and resulting initiatives are adequate to meet the required need.”

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