Media release: Research demonstrates MHPN is contributing to better mental health care for Australians

06 February 2018  In the media

Two articles recently published in the Journal of Integrated Care demonstrate that the Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) is improving integrated mental health care in Australia.

The articles report on evaluations of MHPN’s two core programs – local network meetings of health professionals and national interactive online professional development webinars. According to MHPN CEO, Mr Chris Gibbs, 'In the past, a lack of communication and integration between health professionals and health care services has made it difficult for people with mental health problems to access appropriate care,' said Mr Gibbs. 'Through its two key programs, MHPN supports and enhances collaborative care among health professionals working in primary mental health care'.

Half of Australian adults have experienced a mental disorder over their lifetime, and one in five children and adolescents experience mental health challenges. Further, mental health disorders are the leading cause of healthy years of life lost due to disability. Many Australians do not receive adequate care due to difficulties accessing appropriate services.

The two studies, which involved 1,375 and 585 health professionals respectively, investigated changes in the practice that health professionals provided after participating in MHPN’s network meetings and webinars. According to lead author, Dr Barbara Murphy, 'The studies demonstrated that health professionals engaged in more consultation and collaboration which resulted in more targeted referrals. Ultimately this means improved outcomes for those with mental health conditions'. Importantly, general practitioners were the most likely of all health professionals to make positive changes. 'The studies found that nine out of ten GPs reported improving their referrals as a result of their participation in MHPN’s programs.  This is particularly important given that GPs are often the first contact point for someone with a mental health condition,' Dr Murphy said. 

MHPN promotes interdisciplinary networking between psychiatrists, general practitioners, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, paediatricians, occupational therapists, and other mental health practitioners. MHPN currently supports 350 interdisciplinary networks across Australia, with over 9,000 health professionals attending meetings annually. In addition, MHPN has produced over 60 webinars, attracting participation from 22,000 health professionals, and more than 100,000 downloads of webinar recordings. 'The impact of MHPN is broad and far-reaching,' said Mr Gibbs. 'Around 40% of the networks are located in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia, where health professionals have traditionally worked in isolation. For some health professionals, involvement in our networks and webinars is their first opportunity to connect with practitioners from other disciplines'.

MHPN is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. The principle partners are the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the Australian Psychological Society (APS), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), and the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN).

For more information or an interview with MHPN CEO Mr Chris Gibbs or Dr Barbara Murphy, contact Amanda Hamilton on (03) 8662 6615 or a.hamilton@mhpn.org.au.

Article citations:

Murphy B, Gibbs C, Hoppe K, Ratnaike D, Lovelock H. Change in mental health collaborative care attitudes and practice in Australia: Impact of participation in MHPN network meetings. Journal of Integrated Care 2018; DOI: 10.1108/JICA-10-2017-0033. A link to the article abstract can be accessed here.

Murphy B, Hoppe K, Gibbs C, Ratnaike D, Lovelock H. Change in clinical practice in Australia: Impact of participation in MHPN webinars. Journal of Integrated Care 2018; DOI: 10.1108/JICA-10-2017-0034. A link to the article abstract can be accessed here.