Occupational therapists welcome new investment in mental health services for fire affected communities

Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of significant new investment in mental health support for those affected by the national bushfire disaster.

OTA president, Associate Professor Carol McKinstry said the announcement on the weekend of an initial $76 million investment in additional mental health services for firefighters, emergency personnel, individuals and communities affected by the tragedy was highly significant.

“Given the potentially lifelong impact of traumatic experience, the immediate provision of 10 free counselling sessions to provide short-term distress support, is a welcome initiative,” Professor McKinstry said.

“OTA also welcomes the longer-term initiatives, in particular the 10 psychological therapy sessions which will be in addition to the ten sessions currently available under Medicare. It is appropriate that, in these exceptional circumstances, people will be able to access their mental health professional directly for these additional sessions, and won’t have to seek a GP’s referral first.”

Professor McKinstry noted that occupational therapists are among those professionals able to provide mental health services under the Commonwealth Government’s Better Access mental health initiative.

Professor McKinstry also welcomed additional funding for headspace services in fire affected communities and for locally tailored mental health services through Primary Health Networks (PHNs).

Occupational therapists are allied health professionals whose role is to enable their clients to participate in meaningful and productive activities. They have significant expertise in mental health, working with people to address their core issues and enabling them to undertake their daily roles at work, at home and in the community. They teach very practical stress management and coping techniques that people can use in their everyday life. Occupational therapists understand and assist people experiencing trauma or significant change, helping them to rebuild their lives.

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