Network success stories
VIC coordinator keen to spread Balint message
Hilary Ash has needed a wheelchair for 25 years after a car accident left her with quadriplegia. It has not stopped her pursuing an active career in social work, and more recently coordinating not one but two MHPN networks. And now she has offered to introduce other coordinators to the Balint method of casework collaboration among clinicians involved in mental health.
Attracted by the MHPN model, Hilary attended early workshops run by MHPN and agreed to coordinate a group in Elsternwick, Melbourne.
Hilary has a master’s degree in group analytic studies from Monash University and is particularly interested in the way groups operate. One of the areas she studied was Balint groups.
A few years ago Hilary participated in a Balint Intensive Training and found it a useful model for any professionals, not just GPs, who work with distressed people. The experience persuaded her to set up a local Balint group.
The Intensive also exposed her to experienced Balint leaders in Melbourne, kernel of the movement in Australia. One was Ruth Dunn, now Treasurer of the Balint Society of Australia, who facilitates the MHPN Balint group in Elsternwick.
After starting with a small group, Hilary decided to canvas her wider network. She received a strong initial response through MHPN of 13 to 14 people so she and Ruth decided to split the group into two. They meet Tuesday and Wednesday evenings every six to eight weeks. Places are available for more members.
‘I would love to have these groups running much more widely because I think Balint groups are an extraordinarily powerful resource. Everybody that presented a case in these groups has said how much they appreciated the input they received and how beneficial they found it.”
Of the MHPN concept overall, Hilary says the opportunities for multidisciplinary teams and professionals to get together and talk about their work is ‘fanastic and needs to succeed, because we do need to discuss our work with people of mixed professions to benefit from a range of perspectives on what we do.’
Hilary is currently taking expressions of interest to join one of her two existing Balint groups in 2012. She runs one group on a Tuesday evening, the other on a Wednesday evening in Elsternwick. Please contact Lauren Tyrrell at MHPN on firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9601 4980 if you are interested in being put on the waiting list for either of these groups.
If you are interested in joining a proposed new Balint group to be run in Elsternwick during the day (day of the week TBC) please also get in touch with Lauren to register your interest.
Find out more
For more information on Balint Groups, visit:
Meeting of minds for mental health
In the middle of last year, a psychiatrist and a mental health professional met to discuss the idea of establishing a network for professionals working in mental health care in Blacktown, NSW.
The two were Professor Bryanne Barnett AM, Foundation Chair of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, and Maya Drum, Manager of the Raphael Centre Blacktown. Together they formed the Blacktown Mental Health Professionals Network.
Since the first meeting a year ago, the network has met quarterly.
So great has been the interest that they have had to limit numbers, and are now exploring the possibility of a larger venue. This success has again proven the great need for MHPN networks.
Maya Drum said ‘People attend no matter what the weather! The network has not only broadened our own connections, it has broadened everyone’s.’
The network has succeeded in attracting a broad interdisciplinary membership which includes GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, plus a wide range of nurses.
What makes this network so attractive to other mental clinicians?
‘Professionals attending the meetings are grateful to be able to share their experiences, discuss any problems, and appreciate the feedback that makes it easier for them to handle difficult situations. It’s advice, including pathways to follow, that they might not otherwise have been able to access’, says Ms Drum.
Presentations by guest speakers and the topics of discussion have included:
- What is a perinatal infant mental health service?
- A stable therapeutic relationship: A key to good outcomes
- Easy and effective ways of managing adjustment disorders in private practice
- Caring for parents of infants with complex heart disease
- An innovative approach utilising integrative family therapy when working with suicidal, depressed adolescents who present to emergency department at point of crisis.
‘We have also had the opportunity to speak at adjoining network meetings. For example, Bryanne spoke at a breakfast at the Hawkesbury network meeting. This was attended by a broad range of professionals, not all of them aware of our services, and they were very grateful to hear about our services,’ said Ms Drum.
Videoconferencing brings distant clinicians together
With the mental health issues that affect remote communities exacerbated by recent drought and floods, the formation of local interdisciplinary networks of clinicians working in the primary mental health sector, has been both timely and highly beneficial. In fact sixteen per cent of networks established across Australia by the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) are in rural and remote locations.
A few of these networks have further overcome the challenges of remote distances by meeting virtually. One such group is the MHPN West Coast of Tasmania Network, whose clinicians in Rosebery, Strahan, Queenstown and Zeehan connect via videoconferencing.
For the network’s first meeting, the Rosebery Community Health Centre and the West Coast District Hospital provided the venues and technology for video conferencing, the Department of Health and Human Services supported the dial-in components, MHPN funding enabled catering in each location, and an MHPN Network Sustainability Project Officer assisted with the coordination of each of these components.
One of the network members arranged for Dr Richard O’Regan, Addiction Specialist for the Alcohol and Drug Service North/North West, to travel 200km to present at the meeting, which was attended by 14 clinicians including general practitioners, social workers and nurses.
The presentation included a discussion on the various medications used to assist in managing clients with addiction issues, and their management within health centres.
According to the network’s coordinator Gordon Roberts , who is a Community Health Social Worker, “this discussion created a lot of interest” and Dr O’Regan has agreed to address the network again at a later date on Managing Addictive Behaviours.
Another of the group’s meetings in early March, which used the West Coast District Hospital as its videoconferencing base and drew 18 clinicians from across the region, included a presentation by Graham Lake, Team Leader of the Tasmania Mental Health Helpline and Jo McGrath, Acting Coordinator for the North West Crisis Assessment and Treatment team.
Linking mining communities
Across the other side of the country in the north of Western Australia, the MHPN Newman Network is also using videoconferencing to link its members.
Its group’s coordinator, Stephen Arthur, is a clinical nurse specialist in adult mental health at Pilbara Mental Health & Disability Service, and is passionate about connecting people and services in the mental health field.
He recently organised Dr Roland Main, Psychiatrist at Pilbara MHDS to talk on the topic of “What Services Do We Have and How Can We Access Them” via video link to 26 network members in Newman, Tom Price and Paraburdoo.
Participants ranged from psychiatrists and psychologists to nurses, emergency service workers and police officers.
With the high staff turnover in remote area health services, the online and real world meetings of MHPN networks are forming essential connections to improve patient outcomes.
Back to top
MHPN Perth Gender Network
The benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration in gender dysphoria have helped a Perth GP establish clearer treatment guidelines where few existed before.
The American Psychiatric Association’s fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a benchmark source for diagnoses of psychiatric conditions.
It describes gender dysphoria as ‘a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender’ accompanied by a number of indicators.
The 1 August MHPN Perth Gender Network meeting centred on a presentation by Dr Rosemary Jones, an interstate based gynaecologist. Dr Jones’ address, Crossing the Gender Rubicon – Getting in the Boat, considered the general spectrum of gender identity disorder. She has 25 years of professional experience working in this dedicated field.
One attending Perth doctor said that as a GP, the presentation helped clarify standards of care when helping people with the condition. Little of it was established and none was taught in the medical curriculum, so GPs had to feel their way along and get feedback wherever they could obtain it, she said.
Compared to conditions like diabetes, where the disease is well known and well researched, gender dysphoria was relatively rare and agreed protocols were not easy to access.
Direct information from someone like Dr Jones, who has had experience in her professional and personal life, gave her an idea of what works and what is important for those with the condition. These principles could then inform the care she gave to her patients.
‘From my point of view it meant it expands a little bit more the therapeutics of things; it expands a little bit more the dialogue you’re going to have with people. It would be nice to create an environment where there is more equitable and rational treatment for this group of people,’ she said.
The Gender Network meetings regularly attract strong numbers of participants, with a varied clinician mix, including:
- mental health nurses
The August network had 19 participants, with additional attendees including an epidemiologist and psychology masters students. They reflect the wide scope of clinical interest the network continues to attract with its special interest focus.
The MHPN group has met five times since launching in May 2010.
Back to top
Presenting to a Mental Health Professionals Network: a psychiatrist’s experience
To provide additional support for its interdisciplinary networks, which now number more than 480 nationally, MHPN has been sponsoring presentations by psychiatrists.
Dr George Halasz, a lecturer at Monash University’s School of Psychology and Psychiatry, reports on his own presentation to the MHPN Canterbury Network in Melbourne in May. His address was: “Understanding the Relationship between Mental Health and Medication in Children and Adolescents”.
‘I started looking forward to taking part in my first Mental Health Professionals Network meeting as soon as I spoke with [network coordinators] Gabriele Byrne and Emma-Rose Parsons to clarify what issues in child and adolescent psychiatry might be of interest.
‘As the night approached, despite having spoken on these areas before, I started to become anxious, wondering how I would manage to cover the vast topic we agreed on. Gabriele’s assurance that it was to be an informal gathering, meant to be reassuring, turned into another challenge.
'I spoke with psychiatry colleagues and asked how they had approached the task of being a speaker. Eventually I decided to prepare a handout, to provide structure for the first part of the evening, and to ask for comments along the way, and for the second part, to discuss any issues that may arise.
‘As it turned out, I found the evening a most rewarding exchange of our experiences from various points of view. We shared our struggles as providers of a variety of mental health services to children, adolescents and their families, often dealing with high stress and trauma in clinical and school settings.
‘Our shared concerns to advocate from the ethical position of ‘the best interest of the child‘ is increasingly being challenged while we are trying to also sustain our focus on our own ‘vicarious trauma’ and to ward off ‘burn out’ or emotional fatigue. These conditions arise from our complex clinical work.
‘In addition to the key topic, we also managed to address many issues beyond, to explore the wider implications of our work in our social and cultural settings. With snacks and drinks, opportunities to chat informally, the evening I found to be most nourishing in every sense of the word.’
About Dr George Halasz
Dr George Halasz is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and adjunct senior lecturer at School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University. He also works in private psychiatry practice.
He has written/co-edited three books and a number of chapters and journal articles that deal with a range of developmental and psychiatric conditions. His special areas of interest include:
- Holocaust trauma and trauma transmission
- child/adolescent psychotherapy and ethics
- children of parents with mental illness
- the interface between psychiatry and religion.
Back to top
Morwell and Moe connect to Melbourne
MHPN’s sponsorship of psychiatrist guest speakers for networks has proven very popular, with over 200 requests to date.
Recently the MHPN Morwell network in rural Victoria had the opportunity to hear from Geelong-based psychiatrist, Dr Ajeet Singh, from his practice 224 km away. With the use of videoconferencing technology, Dr Singh spoke on the topic ‘Mood disorders versus borderline personality disorder’ to the group which also included the MHPN Moe network.
The technology worked seamlessly and the network members felt that they were able to actively participate in the same way had Dr Singh been in the room.
MHPN Morwell network member, Jenny Velvin, says that interactive videoconferencing is a great way to bring current learnings to our local area in a time effective manner, adding ‘The topic was very well covered with plenty of opportunity for us to ask questions and the presenter was very relaxed and knowledgeable on a really relevant (and often challenging) topic.
Videoconferencing between clinicians has been gaining more support as technology improves. As Ms Velvin explains, ‘It is also a good opportunity to bring together a range of interested parties from regional agencies and services for information sharing and education.
Back to top
Sunshine Coast Children’s Mental Health Network takes off!
The inaugural meeting of the Sunshine Coast Children’s Mental Health Network was held this month with enthusiastic attendance by a wide variety of health professionals. Included were: general practitioners, psychologists, paediatricians, counsellors and guidance officers, social workers, speech therapists, a child psychiatrist, and others. This demonstrates the complexity of mental health care in children of primary school age.
Dr Michael McDowell, who is a Developmental Paediatrician from the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, presented on the topic of “Clinically Important Stages in Child Development”. He challenged everyone to consider the self concept each child develops as they journey through life’s experiences (e.g. ‘I’m not good at anything’, ‘I’m always in trouble’, ‘no-one likes me’).
He also argued strongly for early intervention, before children develop more severe mental illness, and before their negative self concept gets locked in during adolescence.
Dr Heidi Webster, a local Developmental Paediatrician, then presented a complex case which led to very stimulating discussion of how these ideas can be put into practice.
Feedback from those who attended has been very positive about the quality of the speakers and the opportunity to network with other health professionals. The network is planning for the next meeting in August and would like to extend an invitation to any health workers who are interested in this field.
Dr Brenda Heyworth, a Child Psychiatrist facilitates the Sunshine Coast network, whose aim is “to bring together health providers from across the Sunshine Coast to discuss Children’s Mental Health (ages 4-13) using a biopsychosocial framework”.
For more information on the Sunshine Coast network contact:
Lydia Venetis (MHPN)
Phone: (03) 8662 6616
Browse the MHPN website for general information on MHPN networks, including how to join or start another local network devoted to a general mental health issue or a special interest group.
Back to top
Tamworth group tackles eating disorders
Eating disorders, which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified), are potentially fatal illnesses which are greatly underestimated in our community.
They are highly complex involving both physical and mental health symptoms and complications. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
For over a decade a group of local public and private health professionals in Tamworth have been meeting regularly to improve interdisciplinary understanding and treatment of eating disorders.
The group began with the establishment of a partnership between a private GP and a dietician at the public hospital.
Since then it has expanded to include a range of professionals including GP’s, paediatricians, dieticians, psychologists, social workers, school counsellors and mental health nurses.
Now supported by the Mental Health Professionals Network, and known as the MHPN Tamworth Eating Disorder Network, it joins one of several MHPN networks in the 470 across Australia that are devoted to the issue.
The Tamworth network meets on a monthly basis for professional development and case discussion and is currently coordinated by Sally Moy, a dietician based at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital.
It has scheduled further meetings throughout 2011, and welcomes additional members, including GPs, allied health professionals and those working in the primary mental health sector.
Jennifer See, MHPN
Phone: (02) 6285 0830
Back to top
GP Divisions working closely with mental health networks
GP Divisions are partnering with MHPN networks to enhance professional development and expand referral networks for primary mental health clinicians.
The Albury Wodonga Regional Mental Health Network and the local GP Division have established an excellent working relationship to create informative events for medical practitioners and allied health clinicians in the region. This partnership is aided by MHPN Network’s coordinator Daniel Whiting who is also Mental Health Program Manager for the Division.
In April the two groups were involved in staging two major mental health events in Albury.
The first was ‘Happy Kids Health Community’ which featured two presentations by child psychologist Dr John Irvine. The day session was attended by 130 clinicians and general practitioners from community and mental health services, while the evening session, which was open to families and members of the public, attracted 245 people.
The second event which drew 130 clinicians two days later was a presentation by Dr. Pat Dudgeon and Dr. Roz Walker, authors and editors of ‘Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice’.
These meetings provided an excellent opportunity to gain further education on both child and Indigenous health and mental health issues, and members of the Network gained great value out of them, including through interactions with the wide cross section of the community who attended.
Prior to these events the Network had met twice to discuss the topics of ‘Mental Health, Children, Young People and Medications’, and the development and ongoing role of a cross border mental health network.
The next meeting of the Albury Wodonga Regional Mental Health Network will be held in August.
Back to top
Shellharbour mental health network tackles suicide
In May 2010, with the support of MHPN, the Shellharbour Suicide Focus Network began meeting on a bi-monthly basis to address suicide, a prominent public health concern at a local level.
Comprising of psychologists, counselors, social workers, general practitioners, registered nurses and drug and alcohol workers, the MHPN group are hopeful that a multi-disciplinary approach to effective suicide intervention will make a change.
Coordinated by Sandra Bolack, Consultant Trainer with LivingWorks ASIST, the Shellharbour Network provides peer support in relation to working with clients who have thoughts of suicide.
It is also working to end the fragmentation in the system and address the service and support gaps.
As important as clinical treatment is, the Shellharbour Suicide Focus Network acknowledge that services and support in the community that encourage people to participate in social and community life are also critical.
The Network recently organised a presentation by guest speaker Jason Oldridge, the NSW Coordinator of the Community Street Soccer Program, who gave a presentation on the link between mental and physical health.
As Jason outlined, participation in a sport like soccer is a distraction from mental illness, a point of focus, and a springboard to improvement for many people struggling to manage their mental health.
The Shellharbour Suicide Focus Network is next meeting on June 8th, and will feature a psychiatrist guest speaker Professor Nagesh Pai on the topic ‘Risks of Risk Assessment: What a Clinician Needs to Know’.
Back to top
Networking with CPD opportunities
To add to their appeal and benefits for GPs, a number of MHPN networks have structured themselves as Small Group Learning networks in order to gain Continuing Professional Development points through the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
Typical of these is a new MHPN network in Point Cook, Melbourne.
Its coordinator is Dr Qusai Husain, a clinical and forensic psychologist who is the Principal Psychologist of Psylegal, a psychology clinic located in the Melbourne CBD and Point Cook.
The Network held its first meeting in March this year, and attracted four GPs, six psychologists and three mental health nurses.
The second meeting in May featured a presentation by Dr Manoj Kumar, Consultant Psychiatrist at Mercy Mental Health, on ‘Medications for Bipolar Illness and Depression’
Five meetings are planned for the year, and other local GPs have expressed interest in attending.
Structure and aims
To encourage greater collaboration the MHPN Point Cook Network aims for its meetings to be largely informal, but underpinned by a learning component for the earning of CPD points.
While MHPN networks are free to set their own agendas, the defined aims of the Point Cook network are illuminating for anyone contemplating the establishment of a similar group:
- Identify interdisciplinary approaches to mental health problems in the local area;
- Establish local resources and a directory of specialist areas of practice of practitioners in the local area, and if possible, make this available online;
- Identify auxiliary services and specialist organisations in the local area;
- Communicate innovations in mental health through clinical research and practice – by having guest speakers attend to present on particular areas of interest;
- Develop further local networks.
- Develop regional meetings – to provide opportunities to network with other such groups in the wider local area.
Back to top
Byron Shire MHPN
The Byron Shire network meets on a quarterly basis, and has very strong attendance rates. There are currently 64 members on the invitation list with between 15 to 35 members attending each meeting.
Prem Dana Takada of Byron Psychology is the coordinator of the Byron Shire MHPN group. A clinical psychologist B.B.Sc (Hons), M.Psych and marital/family therapist, she has over 25 yrs of international experience (Europe, Asia, US, Australia).
She was previously the president of a multidisciplinary organisation in Japan where she lived for many years (International Mental Health Professionals Japan). She has a broad range of knowledge of modern psychological change tools which she incorporates into her approach based on an understanding of spiritual and humanitarian practise.
Prem Dana attended an initial MHPN workshop held in December 2009, and has been a strong advocate for supporting the MHPN project.
Meetings attract a diverse range of multidisciplinary members, amongst others, psychologists, clinic directors, school counsellors, social workers, sex therapists, art therapists, a Jungian therapist, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses as well as General Practitioners. Prem Dana has been highlighting the need to increase General Practitioner engagement and with MHPN’s collaborative approach with the NRGPN, the future looks very positive.
The members have been meeting at the Byron Bay RSL and the meeting in June will be their seventh. Prem Dana is the ongoing coordinator for the group whilst the members rotate the role of facilitator.
The focus of the network has been on collaborative care and forming useful network alliances for enhancing pathways to care for clients. Coming together and sharing the knowledge, wisdom and clinical skills that members in Byron have has been a huge attraction and has enabled a professional, friendly and very committed group to develop.
Topics and focus of discussion have included: Treating Resistant Clients, Dual Diagnosis; Better Access Qiz; Strengthening the interface between private and public professionals and GP/private practice, Adolescent Mental Health Panel and Suicide risk assessment.
Dealing with Trauma from a wide variety of approaches including Family/Systemic, Psychologist’s, a GP’s perspective, a Psychiatrist’s perspective, a Jungian therapist and Somatic Therapist approach has been a popular ongoing series over 3 sessions.
Back to top
Narre Warren MHPN network creates connections over lunch
An interdisciplinary mental health in Melbourne’s south-east is improving collaboration between clinicians.
Dr Jacob Dessauer, a GP who has worked in Narre Warren for 22 years, was invited by the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) to facilitate the Narre Warren network because of his long-standing interest in mental health.
Since 1999 he has been GP representative for mental health at Dandenong Casey GP division and Southern Health. He has also been involved in:
- GP training with RACGP/VMA
- Psychiatric Registrar in GP rooms pilot project
- The Primary Mental Health Team and Mental Health Nurse in General Practice program.
Given his significant experience with mental health, and his strong links with local services, Dr Dessauer is in an excellent position to coordinate the network and facilitate its meetings.
Meetings are conveniently scheduled at lunch time at a local GP practice, and draw a good mix of GPs, psychologists and social workers, as well as representatives from the local Primary Mental Health Team and the GP liaison from Southern Health.
At the beginning of each meeting, members have the opportunity to raise issues for group discussion, followed by a case study. ‘Hot topic’ discussions also help ensure member engagement.
Topics covered to date include:
- social anxiety
- communications between the disciplines
- Medicare item numbers
- local services.
The group are now seeking to draw in mental health nurses, as they would greatly value their perspective and contribution.
Back to top
GPs expand mental health contacts
With the Federal Government’s increased focus on mental health outcomes, GPs are discovering the compelling benefits of belonging to an interdisciplinary mental health network.
The Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) was established with federal government funding to encourage greater collaboration in the primary mental health sector by fostering interdisciplinary networks of local clinicians.
The networks enable members to identify current and potential local referral pathways and strengthen professional relationships with others working across the mental health landscape. To date MHPN has rolled out almost 1200 workshops across Australia and established 460 networks, forty percent of which are located in regional, rural and remote locations.
Creating new perspectives
One GP who has discovered the power of interdisciplinary networking is Dr Johanna Lynch, director of Integrate Place, a primary health care centre in the Brisbane suburb of Wynnum.
After facilitating an MHPN workshop, Dr Lynch approached MHPN with the objective of forming her own small interdisciplinary mental health network. Together they explored how the network could be structured to maximize CPD options across professional disciplines, with particular emphasis on Category 1 points for GPs.
MHPN supported Dr Lynch through the process of setting up the group network meetings in line with the requirements for a Small Group Learning through the RACGP.
A cross-section of mental health professionals became involved in the network including psychologists, an occupational therapist, social worker and mental health nurse amongst others, providing a rich source of clinical cases to discuss at each meeting.
Since then the MHPN Wynnum network has completed a cycle of meetings, with network members agreeing that the group provides a robust and safe place for discussion of difficult cases, fostering a growing mutual respect across professional disciplines.
Consequently, members have been able to influence and challenge each other’s paradigms of care, which in many cases has led to new approaches in consultations with patients.
The clinical impact
Dr Lynch says the network has had a significant impact on her clinic:
As a team at Integrate Place we have benefited from the group input to our cases and from time spent with other professions in processing the content of cases.
It has created some referral pathways amongst us as trust increases. It has also created a very safe place to discuss cases that have become stuck, or are personally or professionally difficult, and seek understanding and wisdom from others.
Personally, I have found being in an intentionally multidisciplinary group is a great way to continue to learn from each other. I have also been challenged to extend my learning in a few areas of practice.
Photo: Dr Johanna Lynch
Back to top
Strong response to psychiatrist speakers
The Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) is reporting significant uptake of its offer to sponsor speaking engagements by psychiatrists at MHPN network meetings.
Feedback shows that a presentation by an expert speaker is the most compelling drawcard for network members. As part of this, the knowledge and insights of psychiatrists are of critical interest to those from other mental health disciplines. The initiative aims to bring a different expertise to interdisciplinary networks that might otherwise not be available.
Following the announcement by MHPN and the RANZCP of psychiatrist sponsorships in February, there has been a high level of interest from both psychiatrists who are willing to speak at meetings, and network coordinators who want them involved.
The MHPN Murray Bridge network in South Australia is just one of the networks that has benefited from this initiative so far.
Consultant psychiatrist, Dr Saibal Guha, recently presented to the group of 15 clinicians on the topic of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Feedback from the network’s members, who consist of social workers, mental health nurses, mental health support workers, as well as a paediatrician and a psychiatrist, was that the presentation was highly informative regarding diagnoses and determining the various therapies to use. The presentation also provoked a subsequent discussion on the different perspectives of other disciplines which engaged the whole group.
Participating in the psychiatrist speaking initiative
MHPN is also still accepting expressions of interest from psychiatrists who are interested in being sponsored for a presentation.
Photo: Murray Bridge network members. Far left: Dr Saibal Guha, Consultant psychiatrist and guest speaker.
Back to top
Kempsey mental health weaves a network of success
Being true to the definition of what a network does and how it grows is the mental health network of Kempsey, mid-coast NSW. Its success can be characterised by information sharing and the broadening of connections within the mental health arena in Kempsey and the region – without question putting the ‘multi’ into multidisciplinary.
In a MHPN survey recently undertaken to measure the success of the network, over 85% of the network participants indicated they actually applied the knowledge they gained at network meetings when treating patients.
Donna King, mental health nurse and facilitator of the Kempsey mental health network, said this was an indication that their participation in network meetings has enabled them to provide better outcomes for their clients. Since meeting in late 2009, Kempsey mental health network has gradually developed into a network sustained by monthly meetings and regular attendance by a number of mental health practitioners.
A merger between the network and the Indigenous mental health workshops has also seen an increase in participants. This increase brings with it a broader knowledge base as the meetings now include Indigenous topics.
Some of the participants include clinical psychologists, representatives from New Horizons Recovery and Resources Services Program, Mayo Home Nursing Service and Centrelink, as well as the Team Leader Aboriginal Community Options and Compacts.
With the increase in mental health issues affecting communities across the country, the formation of the Kempsey mental health network has been timely and beneficial for mental health practitioners across the region. Ms King said she believes the MHPN project has enabled her to provide better care to her clients. The network has also broadened her referral pathways which she uses often.
Overall, the network has given the members of the Kempsey network the opportunity to provide more positive outcomes for their clients. As one member explains “Having built relationships through the network I am able to use a multidisciplinary team approach to support clients and their family”.
An array of topics has been covered in past meetings surrounding mental health some of these include Schema therapy, epigenetics, ageing processes, and injury and its link with mental health. The Kempsey network meets every third Thursday of the month.
Donna praises her group on their ability to be self sufficient and independent using MHPN for ongoing guidance rather than financial support to their cause. Guest speakers are being considered for future meetings.
With mental health nurses accounting for ten percent of attendees at MHPN network meetings, and 13% of coordinators coming from the nursing profession, there are ample opportunities for more nurses to become involved.
Photo: Donna King, mental health nurse and facilitator of the Kempsey mental health network.
Back to top
The practice of good mental health
With the Federal Government’s increased focus on mental health outcomes, practice nurses are discovering the patient management benefits of belonging to an interdisciplinary mental health network.
Practice nurses are joining GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, OTs and social workers among others, in local community mental health networks established by the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN). At network meetings, clinicians provide peer support, discuss referral pathways and local services options, and undertake professional development through guest speaker presentations.
Collaboration aids outcomes
Around one in five people in Australia will experience a mental illness at some stage of their life. While many of these suffer from depression, anxiety and low acuity disorders, in extreme cases mental illness can have a debilitating affect on all areas of a person’s life.
With the end goal of improving patient outcomes, MHPN is a federally funded independent body that’s been established to encourage greater collaboration in the primary mental health sector by fostering interdisciplinary networks of local clinicians.
To date MHPN has established 460 local networks, 41% of which are located in regional, rural and remote locations.
MHPN networks enable members to identify current and potential local referral pathways and strengthen professional relationships with others working across the mental health landscape.
For nurses especially, MHPN network meetings provide opportunities to reinforce their value and contribution to the primary mental health team.
With their experience in collaborative care arrangements, nurses can offer support and insight for private practice professionals who often work in silos.
Not least, network meetings provide members with invaluable continuing professional development through their presentations and discussions on topics such as adolescent mental health, postnatal depression, personality and eating disorders.
Back to top
A 100-strong Mental Health Professionals Network in Hawkesbury, NSW, held its fifth meeting recently. Network coordinator Stephen Lillie organised a breakfast meeting with a presentation by psychiatrist, Dr Vlasios Brakoulias, on new medications in mental health.
The network continues to explore different options for engaging clinicians and found the breakfast meeting extremely popular, with 40 clinicians registering.
Stephen Lillie says that the strength of the MHPN network has directly influenced the quality of care for consumers in the area.
“The networking has definitely improved services on the ground,” he said. “We have about 100 people on our emailing list, so if there is a question one of us can’t answer, we email it to the network and it gets answered that way, so I think in that way the networking has helped the services we deliver.”
The Hawkesbury network plans to meet again in early 2011 with support from the Mental Health Professionals Network.
Photo: Stephen Lillie, Hawkesbury Network coordinator thanks Dr Vlasios Brakoulias, psychiatrist for his presentation.
Photo: Dr Vlasios Brakoulias, psychiatrist provided insight on new medications in mental health to a captive audience.
Back to top
Epping / Eastwood network
A mental health network of general practitioners, nurses and allied mental health professionals in north-western Sydney is making a difference to clinicians and patients in its community.
The Epping/Eastwood Mental Health Professionals Network, which is coordinated by local GP Dr. Jackie Chapman and psychologist, Ruth Fordyce, is giving its members greater confidence in tackling mental health issues, as well as the knowledge needed to refer clients to professionals more suited to provide care.
The network was established with the help of the Mental Health Professionals Network (mhpn.org.au), a Federal Government initiative which is working to develop community networks within the mental health sector. The network has 63 members, with over half actively attending meetings, although they are seeking the participation of more GPs from the local area.
A wide range of topics have been discussed at meetings including a personal journey with bipolar disorder, child and adolescent mental health, and the emergence of the new Medicare Locals.
A recent survey of members drew highly positive responses regarding the impact of the network. Members have reported benefits such as “feeling more supported, knowing what resources are there in our local community, building relationships with GPs and other professionals to the point that I could call them and ask for an opinion/help when needed, which is invaluable.”
Most importantly though is the impact the Epping/Eastwood network is having on patients within the local community, with network participants indicating that they are making changes to patient treatment as a result of the meetings, and that this had improved their patients’ outcomes.
Photo: Epping / Eastwood network
Back to top
Mornington network cements its foundations on the Peninsula
A Victorian MHPN network has used its third meeting to schedule a calendar of meetings and topics for the next 12 months, as well as confirm a permanent venue for the group at the offices of Peninsula Support Services, a psycho-social rehabilitation and carer support centre in Mornington.
The network has more than 20 active members, with 13 attending the latest meeting. Social worker, Wendy Pieters, coordinated the most recent meeting and says the meetings have enriched her knowledge of local services and provided a sense of community among other mental health practitioners.
“[The network meetings] are great for networking, and finding out what other services are out there. It’s also a great way of providing peer supervision and support” Wendy explained, “The peer support is fantastic because sometimes you can feel quite isolated in your work.”
The group meets regularly to discuss case studies and share knowledge about local services and programs. “We’ve met quite a number of times and it’s been fantastic sharing knowledge with other psychologists, social workers and GPs,” said Wendy.
At the most recent meeting, the group discussed the various government funded carer support programs in the area, as well as methods of referring consumers into the programs. The group also discussed and had a brief demonstration of MHPN Online.
A future meeting will include a presentation on art therapy by a network member. Network members are also active in other networks in the region, which promotes diversity and growth within each network. “I actually started off with the Rosebud group then discovered that I could go to any mental health network,” Wendy explained.
“So I’ve attended Mornington, Rosebud and Frankston. It’s a great opportunity to learn different things in the areas that interest you.”
Photo: Mornington network.
Back to top
Kilmore success story
An MHPN Network in Kilmore, Victoria has expanded in its push to further improve the relationship between primary and secondary mental health care providers. The 23-strong network includes four GPs and three psychologists, and has had two meetings to date. It is now exploring new ways to provide collaborative care to clients.
Psychologist and MHPN network coordinator Dr Dan Riddle is enthusiastic about the group’s direction. “Psychologists can exercise leadership within the MHPN model by doing much more than bringing GP's & mental health professionals together,” Dr Riddle explained, adding:
“The Kilmore MHPN expanded the normal brief by attracting representatives from community service organizations described as 'Secondary Mental Health Partners'. These included Men’s Shed, Rotary, Bicycle Users Groups, Churches, Art therapists, U3A and Neighborhood Houses. The Kilmore Ucandoo art studio provided a stimulating art therapy networking experience for the 23 participants at the group’s second meeting.”
Dr Riddle also says the group is improving the relationship between primary and secondary care providers.
“Better primary and secondary cross referral can enhance mental health of clients as well as challenging primary partners to truly 'serve' the whole client as opposed to simply 'helping' or 'fixing',” he said.
“Secondary partners in mental health may offer a window into a broader, richer frontier for mental health promotion and informal treatment. Secondary partners might inspire those at the pointy end of treatment to focus more on motivating clients toward personal development as opposed to emphasizing what is weak or broken.”
The Kilmore network will next meet again in 2011.
Photo: Members of the Kilmore MHPN Network mingle at their latest meeting.
Back to top
Bordertown network links private and public mental health sectors
The birthplace of iconic former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Bordertown in South Australia, hosted an MHPN workshop in February 2010 facilitated by the town’s visiting psychiatrist. It was well attended by 19 participants including four general practitioners, five nurses, a social worker, a psychologist and a mix of coordinators and case managers from the NGO sector.
An interdisciplinary mental health network has been established in conjunction with the local Division of General Practice, and is coordinated by the region’s visiting psychiatrist. The network’s first meeting was held in May 2010 where the members focused on the introduction in South Australia of the Mental Health Act 2009, and the management of agitated patients. The group has agreed to meet quarterly with a continued focus on education.
Back to top
Overwhelming response leads to second workshop on eating disorders
After an initial scheduled MHPN workshop was overwhelmed with registrations, the RBW Hospital Eating Disorders Clinic in North Brisbane was encouraged to schedule another to cope with the overflow of interested parties. The two MHPN workshops were held in North Brisbane, co-facilitated by a social worker and a psychiatrist and sought to engage an eating disorders referral network with the RBW Hospital Eating Disorders Clinic where both of the facilitators work.
The workshops were attended by 18 and 19 participants respectively, including 16 GPs, 2 occupational therapists, 13 psychologists, 3 social workers, a mental health nurse and a psychiatrist. One of the aims of workshops was to assist in the development of effective referrals for patients with mental ill health.
The social worker who co-facilitated the workshops expressed how the workshops provided an arena where GPs could comfortably express their concerns about working with patients who are diagnosed with eating disorders. Meeting other health professionals who could support their treatment of these patients was an invaluable outcome of the workshops.
These two groups have merged to form one interdisciplinary MHPN network whose next meeting will be held in the clinic at RBW hospital. The RBW clinic feels more equipped from having access to new clinicians to refer to in their discharge planning.
Back to top
headspace supports Townsville network
headspace continues to provide valuable support to a Townsville network after an MHPN workshop hosted at the headspace Townsville centre.
The workshop, facilitated by a local GP and attended by 23 clinicians including GPs, mental health nurses, a psychiatrist, several psychologists, social workers, as well as nurses and youth workers, helped cement the working relationship between practitioners who work out of the headspace centre and the public mental health providers.
The facilitator commented, “It was a great afternoon, and we achieved quite a lot about which type of client we could best serve, networked about appropriate referrals and the reasons why we are sometimes dissatisfied with each others' processes. This will hopefully lead to better management of our clients with the more appropriate service seeing clients in a timely manner with more inter-personal relationships/ networking assisting continuity of care.”
Issues discussed were family therapy, crisis intervention, early intervention, managing acute psychotic presentations, the GP Mental Health Care Plan, Care Plans in general, exercise programs and the limitation on the number of psychology visits available under Medicare, and Queensland Health processes.
The group plans to meet twice between now and the end of the year. The next meeting will be held at the local Child and Youth Mental Health (QLD Health) and the final meeting for the year will be hosted at headspace.
Back to top
1,000th MHPN network meeting
On Monday 13th December MHPN ran its 1,000th network meeting just 6 months after the conclusion of a nationwide rollout of nearly 1200 interdisciplinary workshops in 18 months.
Held in Surry Hills, NSW, the 1000th meeting is a major milestone for MHPN given that dedicated support of networks only began in earnest in July this year.
To achieve this level of network activity in a third of the time is a reflection of the interest of clinicians in interdisciplinary networking and the professional development opportunities that they can offer. Needless to say it gives us tremendous optimism and confidence in what we are aiming to achieve.
The 1,000th network meeting was coordinated by Nava Turner, a psychologist from the eastern suburbs of Sydney. We look forward to supporting Nava and the network members as they develop and explore new ways of working collaboratively in primary mental health and congratulate them on running the 1,000th MHPN network meeting.
Photo: Group coordinator Nava Turner
Back to top
Community-based suicide prevention network forms in Kingaroy
An MHPN workshop in Kingaroy, 2 ½ hrs north-west of Brisbane, led to the formation of an interdisciplinary mental health network focused specifically on suicide prevention.
The first meeting of the MHPN Kingaroy Suicide Prevention Network in early September was a resounding success. The meeting was arranged following a strong call from local mental health practitioners to discuss the important topic of mental illness and suicide.
Formed in an effort to reduce the impact of suicide on its communities, the MHPN Kingaroy Suicide Prevention Network meeting had over 20 attendants from varied mental health backgrounds.
GPs, social workers, psychologists, counsellors, a police representative and a mental health nurse all concentrated their efforts on the formation of a working group whose main aim is to implement an awareness campaign about mental health and suicide prevention in the region.
Kerrie Zeller, a Liaison Officer from RHealth (the local GP Division), has been appointed to coordinate the working group. The network has encouraged broad representation of both membership and management of the working group so that it represents a wider community.
The network is keen on having the community share in the ownership and understanding of the problem of suicide. A member of the local police station, a school chaplain and a human resources officer from private enterprise who was touched by suicide through a staff member, all contribute to the working group.
An important characteristic of the MHPN Kingaroy Suicide Prevention Network is that it will act as a support group for mental health professionals and related services. The individual members of the network will provide the support to individuals and the network will assist them to provide that support more effectively.
The working group has been busy putting into place some strategies to promote understanding and awareness about suicide such as making a pocket-sized community resource card to raise community awareness of local mental health clinical services and suicide support groups, promoting the ‘Are you OK?’ day in the community, and working closely with the local newspaper to introduce mental health practitioners to the community.
Whilst getting the information out to the community is vital, the working group believes feedback is equally vital. RHealth’s Liaison Officer meets with local GPs on a monthly basis through local GP networks, called Chapters by RHealth, which provide the opportunity for the exchange of ideas and suggestions, as well as feedback on how strategies are working overall.
The network will reconvene with the working group in February 2011, and will be using the MHPN Online webinar on ‘Adolescent Mental Health: Depression, Suicidality and Cyber-bullying’ as a basis for discussion.
Back to top
Politicians get behind MHPN Network in Ulladulla
With NSW state politician Shelley Hancock on hand to offer support, a 37-strong Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) group in Ulladulla is bounding forward in its quest to improve client outcomes via collaborative, interdisciplinary care.
The meeting, held at the Richmond Fellowship of NSW office saw a host of mental health practitioners as well as community mental health workers and the Member for the South Coast, Shelley Hancock, come together to discuss collaborative care and local issues.
Community support worker Kevin Ramsey opened the meeting with a discussion on this year’s “Mental Health Month” theme of “Good Friends Help Us Bounce Back”, giving examples of how this works in a practical sense on a day to day basis working with clients with a mental illness.
Guest speaker Associate Professor, Dr Brett Thompson, gave a thoughtful presentation on resilience and how it pertains to patients, clients, community support workers and health professionals.
Service Manager and network coordinator, Karin Robinson, was pleased with the attendance of the multidisciplinary meeting stating that networking opportunities like this are invaluable to assist to provide better outcomes for clients.
“The meeting has led to better networking between health professionals. That has to lead to better outcomes,” she explained, adding that many rural clinicians know each other by name, but don’t know each other personally.
“It’s important for our area because we’re rural, to actually meet the people we speak to on the phone.”
“I know who to call if I’m in a pickle because there is this whole network of people ready to give you a hand, which is good for my staff, as it gives them an idea of what services are available,” Ms Robinson explained.
The MHPN Ulladulla network plans to meet again in March 2011, and enjoys the continued support of the Richmond Fellowship of NSW, local state member Shelley Hancock and the Mental Health Professionals Network.
Back to top
Interdisciplinary Journal Club
New to MHPN Online is an interdisciplinary Journal Club where you can post journal articles, research and other clinical papers to share and discuss with other clinicians working in mental health.
Develop an understanding of interdisciplinary approaches to challenging clinical dilemmas in mental health treatment and management. Keep abreast of current research or interesting articles posted online by you or your colleagues.
Be part of a collective interdisciplinary online discussion about current research and or articles. Improve your capacity to critically appraise and solve clinical questions. The more you become involved, the more you’ll get out of it. So start posting and commenting today.
You’ll find the Journal Club under the ‘General Forums’ tab in MHPN Online.
Back to top
Case studies keep clinicians interested
“Making Sense of Adolescent Depression in the Context of Family System - a Developmental Perspective” is just one example of the case studies being discussed at MHPN network meetings. This one, presented by Mental Health Nurse and practising Family Therapist David Hong, was presented recently in Parramatta. David has been actively involved in developing the Parramatta network since he facilitated his first MHPN workshop in February 2010.
The MHPN network in Parramatta now has an email distribution list of 53 clinicians including 10 GPs, 1 Psychiatrist, 29 Psychologists, 3 Social Workers, 3 Mental Health Nurses, 1 OT, 1 Case worker and 6 mental health workers.
After initial difficulty in finding a suitable low cost venue to hold network meetings, a network member, Tracey Stobo, Director of Clinical Services at the Northside West Clinic, offered a permanent meeting room at no cost with access to their in-house catering company. As a further community gesture of good will, the Northside West Clinic is providing a free meal for 23 practitioners at the next meeting.
Network members expressed value in the case study discussion and the sharing of ideas and information about clinical expertise and services with the network. Despite being in its infancy in terms of building relationships, there is a strong sense of collegiality and commitment from network members. David anticipates the energy of the group will drive this project forward and identify strategies that will generate the momentum required to ensure sustainability.
The next meeting will focus on formalising a small working party to explore how best to sustain this crucial development. There will also be a case study discussion and a brief overview of the clinical services of Northside West Clinic.
Back to top
Big network in the Blue Mountains
A Springwood network born from an MHPN workshop facilitated by Blue Mountains Social Worker Sandra Warn boasts a mailing list of more than 90 clinicians from six disciplines, making it one of the largest in the country.
After meeting in September 2009, the network has swelled. A continued willingness and enthusiasm to open this network group to practitioners from all over the Blue Mountains District has enabled the network membership to grow. Thirty seven practitioners actively participate in network meetings (5 GPs, 23 psychologists, 2 Social Workers, 1 OT and 6 public and community services workers) while a further 91 are members of the mailing list. These include practitioners who attended other MHPN workshops within the Blue Mountains district and clinicians who requested to join after hearing about the MHPN network.
The Blue Mountains GP Network has also been instrumental in expanding the MHPN network membership base and providing support as they circulate invitations to members on their database and actively promote MHPN network meetings.
Recognising that relationships are the key component of networking, members meet quarterly at the local Sports Club to have a meal together prior to moving to a private room for the more formal part of the meeting. Guest speakers at the network meetings have included psychiatrist, Dr Phil Lambert who spoke on medications, and staff from the non-government organisations Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI), Personal Helpers and Mentors Initiative (PHAMS) and the One in Five Creative Arts Association who presented the topic ‘Recovery and Mental Illness: Local NGO/Community Projects’.
Back to top
Aboriginal health in the north coast of NSW
In NSW, Aboriginal people accounted for 2.2% of the population in 2006. The latest national report card on health, Australia’s Health 2010, highlights that Aboriginal people continue to fare worse than other population groups. Aboriginal people have much higher death rates and are twice as likely to have high or very high levels of psychological distress.
The key to the success of many ground breaking initiatives to improve Aboriginal health has been the development of close working relationships and collaborative programs between Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) and mainstream health providers. In early 2010, MHPN engaged the various AMS which make up the Many Rivers Aboriginal Medical Service Health Alliance in the north coast of NSW. Five workshops were originally scheduled from Taree in the south to Tweed Heads in the north. Each workshop was well attended and proved so popular that a further four workshops were held in the region.
Together with MHPN, local facilitators invited individuals and organisations with an interest in Aboriginal social and emotional well-being. There was good representation at the workshops from Aboriginal mental health workers including case workers, counsellors, liaison officers and nurses and the executive from various AMS; legal practitioners; drug & alcohol counsellors; probation and parole officers; child protection case workers; carer support workers and a mental health consumer consultant.
Ongoing networks across the north coast will soon have access to a range of Aboriginal case studies relevant to the region. These are being developed by the Chief Executive Officer of Galambila Aboriginal Health Service in Coffs Harbour. In order that communities receive the best possible access to health care, network meetings focusing on working better with Aboriginal clients are also planned.
Back to top
Rural challenges, city focus
Australian Capital Territory is being serviced by a Territory-wide interdisciplinary network after 200 clinicians from across all seven MHPN target groups attended initial MHPN workshops. Whilst two special interest networks have formed in the areas of youth mental health and Defence personnel, clinicians who participated in the remaining 16 location-based workshops are working together across the region to improve patient care.
Six interested network coordinators comprising of three psychologists, a former psychologist, a mental health nurse and a social worker have formed a committee to oversee the planning and facilitation of the ongoing meetings of this network. Two territory-wide events are being run before the end of 2010, with a likelihood of further special interest groups emerging. A de-identified case study will be discussed at the next meeting in September 2010.
Staff from the Mental Health Assessment Unit at Canberra Hospital Emergency Department are also presenting on the purpose and function of the unit and appropriate referral pathways. In November 2010 the network will meet again, this time to focus on the issue of Borderline Personality Disorder. That meeting will involve a multidisciplinary panel discussing a case study.
Back to top
MHPN on the road for autism
WA benefited from an MHPN ‘road show’ of sorts during March, April and June 2010. A psychologist, in conjunction with the Western Australian Autism Diagnostics’ Forum (WAADF) travelled to northern metro Perth, southern metro Perth, southern regional Western Australia (Bunbury), and northern regional Western Australia (Geraldton) to deliver four workshops with a focus on Autism.
WAADF is an organisation established to discuss standards, processes, and clinical issues in the assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in Western Australia.
Attendance was strong at all workshops with 21, 30, 18 & 24 attendees respectively including attendance by 18 general practitioners at the two metro workshops and participation by speech pathologists and paediatricians at all four workshops. Ongoing networks have been established.
The workshop facilitator is coordinating the northern and southern metro groups, whilst the regional groups are to be supported by the workshop facilitator but led by local practitioners. The metro networks are meeting monthly and the regional groups have set their first meeting dates for August/September this year.
Back to top
Sunbury network builds local service register
Following a successful MHPN workshop in Sunbury, Victoria, a network has developed two mental health service registers for the region. The initial workshop was facilitated by a GP representative from the RACGP Victorian Faculty and the network has since met monthly at lunch time, alternating between the GP clinic where the original workshop was held and a psychologist’s meeting rooms.
The group has agreed to some core themes for their network meetings including community development, networking, sharing relevant information and addressing local service issues. For example, the group reviewed local mental health resources which led to the creation of two mental health service registers; one for the general public and one for other health professionals.
A group member is liaising with the local Division of General Practice and Rotary club regarding the development and promotion of these service registers. Each meeting also allows time for networking where members can discuss their areas of specialty and share information about upcoming events of interest.
The group is interested in indentifying and addressing local issues in mental health service delivery. In analyzing regional mental health needs, they have identified the most commonly encountered mental health issues presented to GP clinics are anxiety, depression and drug and alcohol issues.
Back to top
Three become one in Warrnambool
Three successful MHPN workshops held in Warrnambool, Victoria, have merged into one larger network which is actively engaging with local services such as Centrelink and a local Indigenous health service.
The group is working to raise awareness of local services by holding network meetings at different service locations. This provides an opportunity for clinicians to familiarise themselves with the local services, to broaden referral options and to strengthen professional relationships.
The Warrnambool MHPN network has met three times since their initial workshops and meetings have been hosted by St John of God Hospital, Gunditjmara Health Service (including Cultural Respect Training) and Otway Division of General Practice (with a focus on drought and mental health).
Other local services who have agreed to host the next three meetings are headspace, South West Health Care, Primary Mental Health Team and Centrelink.
Back to top
In Launceston, participants from four initial workshop groups are working together to establish one larger network with the aim of broadening professional associations. The local clinicians felt that there was an opportunity with the MHPN project to broaden professional associations.
A steering group of nine participants is actively working to attract GPs and other disciplines not currently represented in the network. The steering group has also assumed responsibility for ensuring that the network has a clear direction, input from different professional groups, and that the workload does not fall on just a few individuals.
Members meet regularly to provide guidance to the network by determining the focus and agenda for meetings, and nominating a person to organize and facilitate each meeting.
This network showed earl initiative by planning their meetings for the remainder of the year. A recent meeting featured a lecture on borderline personality disorder and conversational model therapy, delivered by the psychiatrist from the steering group.
A social worker who attended this network meeting commented that, “These get-togethers are brilliant as I work alone in my own practice.”
Back to top
Private psychiatrist encourages private mentoring
Since first meeting at an MHPN workshop in August 2009, a group of ten mental health professionals led by a Launceston psychiatrist continues to gather every month to mentor each other and aid professional development.
The psychiatrist was quick to recognise the value in building relationships and he worked with MHPN to form a small multi-disciplinary peer review group. The initial workshop for this group had representation from each of the key professional groups working under the Better Access initiative.
The psychiatrist requested a group of no more than ten clinicians of mixed experience to create an environment for mentoring from some of the more experienced clinicians.
Since the workshop, the network has met nine times over breakfast. The group discusses clinical cases and has invited representatives from support services to explore referral pathways and other related issues.
Back to top
MHPN Sutherland Shire network
The MHPN Sutherland Shire Network in NSW consists of general practitioners, occupational therapists and psychologists who meet every 3 months at the Sutherland Hospital Community Health Centre. Some food, tea and coffee are provided during the meeting. The meetings are facilitated by Dr Monica Moore, who has committed to coordinating the network for 12 months.
There is a cooperative partnership between the Division of General Practice and the Division of Mental Health at Sutherland Hospital where meetings of the joint mental health committee have been held regularly for over 12 years. This collaboration has assisted public mental health issues and GP issues to be shared and understood respectively. So there is already a friendly atmosphere between the 2 bodies.
The MHPN network meetings are run separately to the mental health committee. The meeting agenda for the MHPN Sutherland Shire network usually includes a case study discussion suggested by a participant. Topics have included:
- A case presentation by a private mental health provider outlining their approach to a 6 session Medicare referral, and one for an 18 session case. Part of the discussion focused on what constitutes a good referral letter from a GP and the same for a treating psychologist.
- Communication between a GP and mental health clinician where medicare is involved.
Subsequent meetings will have a different focus depending on the needs of the group.
Other benefits derived from network discussions include:
- Sharing information about services in the private and public sectors, and how to access them, eg. NGO support services
- Getting to know other practitioners for better referral matching to patient needs
- Learning about practical issues such as fees, after-hours work and special interests.
The future of the group is discussed at every meeting to ensure that all participants’ needs are met. The key drivers for the network to succeed are networking, problem-solving, finding good referral pathways, getting to know other practitioners, and ultimately better patient care and a more satisfying work environment.
Whilst allied health clinicians have been greater in attendance than medical professionals, GPs who can’t attend meetings are included on the email list and receive updates this way.
The Division of GP’s website has a mental health directory and network members are invited to submit their details for inclusion. GPs and other health professionals have access to the directory for referrals.
Back to top
Sydney Northern Beaches network
Situated on the northern coast of Sydney, the Northern Beaches MHPN group ticks all the boxes for becoming a model sustainable network. Having been formed as a result of 5 workshops merging, the Northern Beaches MHPN covers the Manly Warringah area of NSW. Its coordinators, Dr Mataji Kennedy and Mr Howard Wiggins, are active in their efforts organising and arranging network meetings every 2 months.
Discussions have been active as Dr Kennedy explains “We get together from 7-9pm and have coffee and bring some food to share. (At the last meeting) we didn't get through the agenda because some interesting professional development issues were raised and we decided to discuss those instead”.
Sustainable networks such as Northern Beaches are driven by the opportunity to meet those in similar roles, share information and learn from other people’s experiences.
As Dr Kennedy further explains, “I think people have continued to come as it’s great to network with people working in the same area. Private practice can be lonely if you are working on your own most days. Also I have had clients who I have needed to be referred on and this has been a good way of building a referral network”.
Below is an agenda example from the last Northern Beaches MHPN meeting.
- Group exercise - 5 min
- Sharing resources (discuss interesting PD courses or experiences you have attended) - 15min
- Case discussion (we can work through an MHPN case or a real case if participants bring cases for review) - 60min
- Communication across professions (discussion on how we can better promote this) - 15min
- Marketing ideas for Psychology week
Back to top
A Mental Health Working Group holds a monthly interdisciplinary mental health network meeting over morning tea. This group was already meeting under the auspice of the local Division but expanded their membership by holding an initial MHPN workshop facilitated by a local psychiatrist.
According to members this workshop enabled the group to “reinvigorate our membership and expand our group’s focus”. New network members include GPs, mental health nurses, psychiatrists and staff members from local non-government funded agencies. The group made a commitment at the initial workshop to continue meeting regularly.
The network meetings alternate between a facilitated case study discussions (using one of MHPN’s case studies) and planning for mental health community development activities. Meetings have been scheduled until the end of 2010. Different network members have volunteered to present each facilitated case study discussion.
The first was facilitated by a GP presenting on an adolescent with an eating disorder (Melissa- Case Study 2). Discussion at the meeting included formulating a GP mental health treatment plan and engagement with the teenager and parents in the plan.
The second case discussion was facilitated by the mental health program manager of the local private hospital. The review looked at treatment goals and management plans for a woman with a dual disability including obsessive compulsive disorder and mild intellectual disability (Robyn- Case study 11). During the community development meetings, the group has discussed various local mental health related issues including homelessness.
The local area has been identified as having the second highest rate of homelessness in the outer regions of Brisbane. As part of their community development focus they plan to hold a ‘Day for the Homeless’ to increase community awareness of the issue.
Back to top
MHPN network provides inspiration in Tully
An MHPN network is providing inspiration for a group of clinicians in Tully and Mission Beach, Queensland who are committed to improving the general health and wellbeing of people with a mental illness in the region.
The Tully/Mission Beach network is attended by GPs and practice managers from both local medical centres, Tully Hospital medical officers, the QHealth Mental Health and Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs team members including psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and psychologists, as well as psychologists from the FNQ Division of General Practice.
Social worker, Wendy Zerner, who coordinates the network says clinicians have benefited from shared knowledge in providing better outcomes for clients. Ms Zerner explains that through the group’s activities “Members have a greater appreciation of the place their service plays in the whole range of services available to a person with a mental illness. There has also been a greater number of cross referrals and greater options for people with a mental illness”, she adds.
Network meetings provide an arena for learning where the knowledge gained is being applied when treating patients. A wide range of topics have been discussed including Medicare items and ways to provide comprehensive, accessible treatment to clients, including the use of the GP item number for annual health checks.
They are currently trialling a model of referring clients to GPs for a General Health Assessment and will meet again in February 2011 to review their results.
The contributions of a committed psychiatrist also have been invaluable to network members, where Question and Answer sessions have informed subsequent discussions.
Ms Zerner says the MHPN Network meetings are inspiring. “I see relief in the faces of the rural GPs, excitement and enthusiasm in the faces of the private clinicians and public mental health clinicians and I see joy in the face of the psychiatrist as he engages in discussion about illness and treatments that he is passionate about,” she says. “I am just so impressed with the MHPN initiative and what it has given to local mental health service providers.”
Tully MHPN network members: From left front - Dr Nell van Buuren; Cheryl Jenkins; Dianne Cole; Wendy Zerner; Dr Maria Thomas; Dr Kim Favier. From left back -Carol Shannon; Dr Rigo van Meer; Wayne Jensen; Wendy Schulz; Jennifer Cupitt; Dr Clarie Stewart.
Back to top
Regional network strengthens ties with local community
Continual engagement by MHPN in the Gippsland region has led to the development of a strong ongoing network of interdisciplinary mental health practitioners in Drouin. The group of 10 clinicians is coordinated by Kerrie Anne Gafa, a credentialed mental health nurse employed by the Central West Gippsland Division of General Practice as part of their Mental Health Nurses Incentive Program.
Kerrie Anne works closely with headspace and other local organisations, and was able to secure the headspace office in Baw Baw, Warragul to host the group’s meetings.
The most recent meeting included 30 minutes of informal networking, followed by a presentation from community mental health nurse and headspace youth counselor Cindy Mathers on the services provided out of headspace. During discussions, network participants raised the need for a comprehensive interdisciplinary directory of the services provided within the area and made commitments to pursue this goal.
Health researcher David Harrison agreed to approach the local Baw Baw Shire Council to investigate the possibility of drawing up a directory of local health services and local authority service providers. The network plans to meet again in November 2010 at the headspace offices.
Photo: MHPN Gippland network
Back to top
Reaching out in Nhunlunbuy
Mental Health Professionals Network organised and hosted a workshop with a difference in Northern Territory recently, hosting practitioners from remote Northern Territory at a day-long workshop at Nhulunbuy on the north eastern tip of Arnhem Land.
The event saw over 20 participants receive training on the Australian Integrated Mental Health Initiative (AIMHi) before a more conventional MHPN dinner.
Conceptualised by Darwin psychiatric registrar Lea Foo after contact from MHPN and in response to remote and indigenous mental health challenges, the workshop resulted in a commitment to an ongoing interdisciplinary mental health network.
The unique challenges of such remote access and gathering a number of mental health professionals saw participants travel from as far as Darwin and Elcho Island. Logistics was handled deftly by MHPN who undertook all the administrative tasks in association with the all day event.
Nicky Bisogni, MHPN senior project officer stated “We were delighted that Lea Foo, like us recognised the window of opportunity that an initial MHPN workshop offers. We understand the complexities and challenges that remote mental health clinicians face and so we were pleased to be responsive and flexible in our support for these workshops.”
Lea Foo explains that MHPN gave her an opportunity to address a key need in the region’s mental health care system.
“It began because I was aware that the Mental Health Professionals Network was providing support for people who were interested in joining organisations together for the process of networking and education around referral pathways, and I realised that the clinicians here work in very isolated circumstances because the communities are located quite far apart,” she explained, adding, “Up here we commute by light aircraft or by a very long, very bumpy car trip.”
“One thing I realised is that many mental health workers felt that isolation, and the second thing was that non-Indigenous mental health workers needed more education on how to communicate effectively and how to assess people cross-culturally.”
With General Practitioners a vital cog in the Better Access machine, Foo realised it was important to understand their needs and limitations. “At first I thought we would just do a workshop, but then I realised GP’s might not have a whole day just for a workshop,” she explained.
“So I thought they would benefit from a summary of the services and material that’s available so they can access it at their own leisure. Also with the GPs involved it’s an opportunity for them to hear from the Aboriginal mental health workers who are out in the communities.”
The focus on education and dissemination of AIMHi literature in the day session was followed by a discussion on networking and interdisciplinary care across dinner. “I developed the idea to have a day workshop focused on AIMHi, and then the dinner program involved a lot of discussion around referral pathways and used the MHPN case study to talk about constructing care plans and what community services were available” Foo explained.
Foo says that an interdisciplinary approach is a key focus of the network members, “It’s a number of services working collaboratively that allows us to give someone a better, and more holistic treatment plan. It’s really a multi-factorial strategy that we need to adopt.”
The network is currently organising its first independent network meeting with support from MHPN , the Northern Territory GP Network and also with the drug and alcohol services based in Nhulunbuy.
Lea Foo is enthusiastic about the potential for the network into the future. “There is a need here and we can see that. People who came felt it was really useful so hopefully we can get an even better turnout to the next meeting.”
Nicky Bisogni, MHPN senior project officer summed up the MHPN commitment, “Planning this workshop was an iterative process and was shaped by local need and issues. We look forward to continuing to support interdisciplinary mental health networks in Nhulunbuy and other remote parts of our country.”
Back to top
Stone paves the way for Frankston MHPN network
A recent mental health network workshop held in Frankston is forming a network thanks to the professional contribution of the workshop facilitator Dr Jeremy Stone and the assistance of the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN).
Dr Stone, committee member of RANZCP Victorian branch, is well respected for his work in the mental health community in the Peninsula region. As a facilitator Jeremy proved invaluable due to his work in mental health in both the public and private sectors. Jeremy’s extensive knowledge, coupled with the knowledge of the workshop participants, enabled a comprehensive mapping of local referral options, identifying how clients can be referred to the various public, private and non-government services.
The workshop was well attended by 8 psychologists, 5 social workers, 3 GPs and 3 mental health nurses. A workshop participant explained “There was a tremendous amount of knowledge sharing at the session as well as an opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and to build new ones”.
MHPN continues to seek facilitators for workshops which will be running through until June 2010. MHPN are interested in running workshops that are location based, such as the Frankston workshop, that are based around an existing clinic or service, or that have a special interest focus.
If you are interested in facilitating for MHPN, or in building a workshop around your existing clinic, group or special interest, please contact Nic Ridge on 9601 4987 or email@example.com, or register an expression of interest with MHPN.
Back to top
Bayside GPs grow network with MHPN support
When is a clinic meeting not a meeting? When it turns into an MHPN network. This was the case with a recent MHPN workshop held at the Brighton Savoy in Melbourne. Facilitated by Associate Professor Steve Trumble, a member of the RACGP National Standing Committee - Education, and Editor in chief of 'The Clinical Teacher', the successful workshop was built around Steve and his colleagues' regular montly clinic meetings.
A large part of the evening's success was attributed to the Thomas Street Family Medical Clinic's GPs being able to invite mental health professionals to join them for the evening. Doctors and therapists who had been in 'referral relationships' for several years - without ever having met - finally got together and shared some good-natured case discussion. I filled out a mental health care plan the next day," said one participant "and actually felt I knew the person to whom I was referring my patient."
In addition, Julien Schulberg, a University of Melbourne medical student and trained concert violinist, entertained the participants with a musical interlude during the workshop.
To assist in building the network, invitations were also sent by MHPN to clinic groups not in regular contact with the Bayside GPs such as mental health nurses.
Attendees of the workshop were from varied mental health backgrounds including 7 GPs, 2 undergraduate medical students, 7 psychologists as well as a social worker, a practice nurse and an international visitor from Scotland, Dr Patricia Donald, a GP Policy Adviser to the Lothian Health Board in Edinburgh.
Participants agreed to further meetings at the Thomas Street Family Medical Clinic and welcomed further support from MHPN.
MHPN workshops are being held across Victoria to establish local networks of mental health professionals to assist with networking and information exchange. The Victorian MHPN team can assist clinks to build their networks by organising similar workshops.
Interested in strengthening your mental health networks?
Contact the Victorian MHPN team and find out how an MHPN workshop can be organised around your clinic.
Phone: (03) 9601 4987
Email Nic Ridge, Senior Project Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to top
Sutherland succeeds in mental health networking
It's like being a member of a book club only the topic of discussion isn't a book. It's considered as one of the most prevalent issues affecting Australians today. Mental health and workshops are being held across Australia successfully bringing together industry professionals to discuss and share in their experiences with mental health.
And that's exactly what Dr Monica Moore from the Sutherland Shire, south of Sydney, is encouraging.
Dr Moore believes such a network within the shire could benefit professionals in a number of ways including sharing information, getting to know people who attend the meetings and hearing views on how they practice, as well as who they know and recommend in the industry.
The Sutherland Shire network are planning to meet on a quarterly basis. Two case presentations will be presented at the next meeting. Subsequent meetings will have a different focus depending on the needs of the group.
Back to top