Evidence-based program boosts resources sector mental health

Monday, 03 August, 2020 | Supplied by: Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd

A team of leading researchers will pilot a new model of care in Queensland’s Bowen Basin to improve mental health outcomes as the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic take hold. Mitsubishi Development has funded the $500,000 pilot program to improve mental health services for individuals in the Bowen Basin, considering the impact of COVID-19. The program is being run out of Wesley Medical Research’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Centre, which aims to deliver immediate improvements to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of COVID-19. While the resources sector has kept many Australians employed during COVID-19, there were many more in the community suffering job less in sectors that will not recover quickly. New modelling indicates that Australia’s suicide rate could surge by up to 50% as the impacts of job loss and economic hardship start to affect mental health.

“We have more than 50 years of experience operating in the Bowen Basin and know that mental health issues are more prevalent amongst the young and those who live in rural and regional Australia — so there was no question that we would act on this,” Sadahiko Haneji, Mitsubishi Development’s Chief Executive Officer, said. The COVID-19 pandemic could result in an extra 750 to 1500 suicides in Australia in 2020; a rate that is likely to persist for up to five years if the economic downturn lasts more than 12 months, according to Dr Claudia Giurgiuman, General Manager of Wesley Medical Research. Dr Giurgiuman believes that the suicide rate is likely to overshadow the number of deaths in Australia directly attributable to COVID-19 infection, and said Australia’s mental health system must be equipped to respond to the increase in demand for services.

“When Mitsubishi Development approached us with their concerns, we designed a program that will have immediate impact in the Bowen Basin community by enabling access to a new evidence-based model of care to improve mental health outcomes,” Dr Giurgiuman said. The tailor-made program will access more than one million data points, including interviews with community members to identify existing mental health services and how they can be improved for individuals in the Bowen Basin following the impact of COVID-19. In collaboration with Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation, a model of care will be designed to support individuals that complements existing services. A pilot will be conducted in August to trial its effectiveness in mitigating mental health impacts resulting from the coronavirus. The research program was showcased as part of the official opening of Wesley Medical Research’s COVID Rapid Response Research Centre on 18 June 2020.

The Centre is also seeking funding for three other critical research programs, to determine the effects of hydroxychloroquine on frontline healthcare workers, discover best practices in patient management of critically ill COVID-19 patients, and enable early intervention strategies that minimise the impact of COVID-19 for those with pre-existing conditions. The program has been welcomed by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC). “During the COVID-19 outbreak our sector not only adhered to the advice of the state’s Chief Health Officer but implemented more safety measures to protect the men and women working in the resources sector, their colleagues, their families and their communities,” QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said. “What we are seeing now is a willingness from our sector to continue this work as we recover from COVID-19 with a pioneering program aimed at preventing mental health issues.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/agnormark

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