OTA endorses National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy

On 12 October the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, launched the world’s first National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Mr Hunt said the Strategy “provides a framework to guide the development of a comprehensive, integrated system of services to maintain and support the mental health and wellbeing of children aged 0-12 and their families”.

Through four focus areas, the Strategy outlines the requirements for an effective system of care for children:

  1. Family and Community
  2. Service System
  3. Education Settings
  4. Evidence and Evaluation

At the launch of the Strategy, it was noted that half of all adult mental health challenges emerge before the age of 14, yet few children below the age of 12 receive professional support.

Several of the priorities identified in the Strategy received funding in the 2021-22 Budget, and these included: 

  • $54.2 million to create new Head to Health Kids mental health and wellbeing centres for children up to 12 years, in partnership with the state and territory governments;
  • $42.3 million to support access to parenting education and support, to build parenting strategies and help parents to identify problem behaviours early;
  • $26.8 million to support Kids Helpline and meet the increased demand for services;
  • $47.4 million for perinatal mental health initiatives; and
  • $111.4 million to allow family members and/or carers to access up to two of a patient's available Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions, and to expand access to group sessions where appropriate.

The development of the Strategy was undertaken by the National Mental Health Commission, supported by an expert advisory group.

The Strategy is available on the Commission’s website www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au

OTA welcomes the Strategy, and the commitment of substantial resources in support of it. Members would be aware that the association is undertaking significant work in the mental health space. Thinking Ahead: The future of occupational therapy and mental health in Australia, is a project commissioned by OTA to ensure we have a strong understanding of the diverse nature of occupational therapy practice in the context of mental health. A series of workshops has enabled us to identify where and how occupational therapists are working and the factors that help or hamper this work.  

The project, being conducted by an outside consultancy under the supervision of an Expert Advisory Group, addresses three separate but related areas: Advocacy and research – the development of a comprehensive advocacy strategy; Clinical and community practice – building the infrastructure to support clinical competency and professional development; and Communications – raising consumer and referrer awareness of the occupational therapist’s unique role in mental health care.

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