Chris Shipway: Evidence shows that, for some people, online intervention is just as effective as face-to-face. We’ve certainly demonstrated that with the correspondence-controlled drinking program in New South Wales which we’ve now started putting online. It doesn’t work for the chronic alcoholic, but for someone who’s drinking a bottle or two of wine a night, this can sometimes work. It’s cost-effective and it’s anonymous. New South Wales Health and the Mental Health Office are interested in building physical places where GPs and specialists meet and are accessible to the community, such as the Health One model or super-GP clinics. Industry funds may have a readily identifiable cohort of clients who mightn’t feel stigmatised if they went to a GP or a clinic which has the support of specialist mental health services. There’s a possibility there. It’s a bit like the HeadSpace model but it’s not for young people. It’s for a different population. I can’t speak highly enough about Mental Health First Aid Training (Editor’s note: see mhfa.

It’s two days’ training, and if there are particular workplaces where you’re getting a high incidence of mental health problems occurring, then this is good for supervisors, managers, and front-of-house people to identify problems. We’ve talked about suicide and dealing with mental health and they’re related, but they’re not exactly the same phenomena. If the target that we’re trying to drive down is suicide, then it’s like reducing motor vehicle fatalities. There’s not one solution. The final end, the soft end, is how do we communicate with people and what’s the call to action? One of the things which we’re hoping to do in New South Wales over the next 12 to 18 months is market research on ‘what does the Australian community think when they hear terms like mental health or mental illness?’ We did this recently with alcohol because we wanted to know ‘is the community ready for a conversation on some hard action on alcohol in New South Wales?’, and the first batch of market research showed they don’t know what the issue is. You might think there’s an issue, but the community doesn’t think there’s an issue. If most people think that mental health or alcohol consumption isn’t an issue, then the first thing you’re going to do in your communication strategy is to try and convince them it is.

That might be something which industry groups are interested in participating with us: the bigger the budget for that sort of market research, the better the quality. Colin Tate: Chris, if my memory serves me correctly, when we first met, you suggested that communicating and co-operating with large funds is one of the ways that you see yourself working. Dawn O’Neil: I’d like to point to the elephant in the room: that many insurers have exclusions around suicide. That is a reason why many families do not want a death identified as a suicide, because they’re concerned that the insurance payout will not be there. I would encourage super funds to work with the insurers, and the insurers to look at that issue, and more closely examine some of the very rich data that you have. You’re finding out about suicide claims often long before we, as service providers, find out through the ABS, because that process is delayed. That’s where the government and insurers and the super funds could work very closely together: to look at those exclusions. Colin Tate: I thought that a 13-month exclusion was the most that remained, that there were no funds that 100 per cent excluded suicide anymore. Lisa Munsie: There may be funds that have suicide and mental health limitations in their policies, but it’s certainly archaic and should be reviewed.

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