The heads of major industry funds, six insurers and mental health organisations have resolved to build a website supplying educational mental health and care access information to members and employees of the involved funds.

SuperFriend – brainchild of the 22 funds comprising the Industry Fund Forum (IFF), six major insurance companies and numerous mental health organisations – will be available to 8.7 million fund members and 463,000 participating employees from July 2007, according to John Mendoza, Mental Health Council of Australia CEO and member of the SuperFriend steering committee. Mendoza said the website, financed by participating insurers, would “educate members and guide users who may be suffering from circumstances that could affect their mental health – such as depression, debt or family breakdown – to support and information from mental health professionals”. The IFF and mental health groups identified the lack of information about mental illness and the availability of mental health care, as well as the stigmatic effects of mental illness, as major barriers to mental health treatment and recovery. “Only 38 per cent of people with mental health problems access help,” Mendoza said. SuperFriend’s key objectives are to prevent suicide; promote early intervention during the onset of mental illness; promote mental health care; provide web-based and downloadable information about the various dimensions of mental illness; demystify the stigma attached to mental illness; reduce peoples’ time away from work due to mental illness and reduce insurance claims resulting from mental illness. The program is seeking further involvement from the financial services and mental health sectors. Mental health organisations contributing to the program include Lifeline Australia, Suicide Prevention Australia, Beyond Blue and Wesley Mission. Insurers funding the project are MLC, Tower Life, Hannover Life, CommInsure, AIG and Metlife.

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