In Consultation

The IPN blog for healthcare professionals.

  • Mental Health

    Dr Ged Foley
    Posted by on 08 Apr 2015

    In recent years, we have made great progress in the treatment of mental health issues but we need to go a good deal further to achieve the goal of a nationally consistent and efficient mental healthcare system.

    We all know that we encounter a very large number of patients with mental health issues; the commonly quoted statistic is that mental health problems comprise a significant component in over 30% of our consultations in General Practice. There are some other sobering statistics;

    - 1 in 5 people will suffer a significant mental health issue at some stage.

    - Australians are the second highest users of anti-depressants in the world.

    - Mental health illness accounts for 13% of the burden of chronic disease in our country

    - 50% of people with enduring mental health issues present by the age of 14 years, 75% by the age of 25 years.

    We face many challenges in the delivery of effective interventions but we, as GPs, are arguably best-placed to make the difference. Any system that hopes to deliver successful outcomes needs to be focussed on early intervention, community support and recovery. In short, such a system needs to be based in primary care.

    Clearly, we can and do achieve a great deal in the course of our normal consultations and our standard treatments for patients with mental health problems. The value of the input of our colleagues in Psychology and Psychiatry cannot be under-estimated, though access to these services may be limited by availability and the ability of patients to self-fund treatment.

    So it’s worth considering other means of accessing help for our patients. Mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression, have been proven to be amenable to on-line therapies. On-line resources such as those provided by the Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue can be incredibly useful to patients. Details of these services can be accessed directly through their websites or by searching the Healthshare Fact Sheet database that’s available to all IPN doctors. The Black Dog Institute especially provides information for doctors about on-line programmes that patients with depression and/or anxiety can access directly.