Australia: 'NewAccess' - coaches who help mentally ill battle the blues
Last Updated: 24 August 2013

The treatment of individuals suffering mild mental health issues could take a dramatic turn with a new program spearheaded by the not-for-profit organisation Beyond Blue which is starting its trial this month.

'NewAccess' comes at a price tag of $13.25 million and is aimed at early intervention and the involvement of mental health "coaches".

The free service will allow thousands of Australians with mild depression or anxiety to refer themselves to free early intervention services before their condition worsens. It relies on members of the community, who understand the mental health field, assisting through low intensity forms of support and 'leading from behind' to address those with mild mental health problems. The focus is on change from within rather than what can be sometimes overbearing solutions forced upon the individual.

Clare Shann, Beyond Blue's Deputy Chief Executive, states that "the idea is to utilise workers – as we are calling them, access coaches – who aren't currently working in the health system, we know in many areas of Australia there are work force shortages and we are quite interested to prove a model that demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach."

Key advantages of the program are that it will ease the burden on current mental health services and, given the system of self referral, boost the number of Australians who are prone to avoiding such issues, in particular young men. As noted by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Jacinta Collins, "Unfortunately, we know this stigma continues to disproportionately affect men ... What really matters is providing the mental health services that will engage men and give them the help they need."

NewAccess is based on a British Model and will be trialled in the ACT and at other sites over the next two years.

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