01:56am Monday 06 July 2020

Roundtable to find better responses to mental illness

UniSA Chair in Mental Health Nursing Prof Nicholas ProcterAnd responses and support for the mentally ill when they are in crisis and when they seek assistance can be less than perfect.
In a significant move to address these issues across the community, UniSA’s Peace Defence and Security Research and Innovation Cluster and Mental Health Research Group will be leading an innovative Risk Roundtable bringing together a broad section of professionals and social services to develop a research agenda to find better strategies for dealing with mental illness and mental health related crises in the community.
The Risk Roundtable will be held at UniSA’s City West campus on November 11 from 11.30 am.
UniSA Chair in Mental Health Nursing, Professor Nicholas Procter says the Roundtable is the first of its kind in SA and unique in its multidisciplinary approach.
“When you look at any given critical incident surrounding mental illness in the community it doesn’t take too long to understand the complexity of managing these issues,” Prof Procter says.
“A range of services come into play from social services and police, to the public advocate, psychiatrists, health workers and nurses and each has a different perspective on the situation. This Roundtable is designed to set the parameters for new research by working together and sharing those perspectives and the knowledge we have as a community about dealing with incidents involving people with a mental illness.”
Prof Procter says mental health is one of the nation’s critical community issues.
Every four hours somebody completes suicide in Australia. Studies have consistently demonstrated that people with mental illnesses are over-represented in prisons and that rates of mental illness in the criminal justice system are substantially higher than those found in the general population.
He says other key factors put people with a mental illness at risk.
“People who are dependent on alcohol and other drugs are up to 50 per cent more likely to have a co-morbid psychiatric condition and people with a diagnosis serious mental illness are four times more likely to abuse alcohol and six times more likely to have some other substance abuse problem,” Prof Procter says.
“This starts to paint a picture of the layered problems people with a mental illness struggle with and the difficulty in isolating one aspect of their situation for treatment and support.
“In bringing together this group we want to scope how we can build better evidence-based responses that are safe for individuals with mental health problems and the wider community.”
The Risk Roundtable will bring together 21 key leaders in from across the community including Deputy Chief Magistrate, Justice Andrew Cannon, representatives from the Social Inclusion Unit, SA Ambulance Service, the SA Police, UniSA’s Schools of Law, Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Health Sciences and Nursing, the Departments of Housing, Family and Communities, Correctional Services, and Health, SA’s Chief Psychiatrist and the Director of Mental Health Operations.
Prof Procter says he hopes to develop some clear directions for further research into the care and support for people with mental health issues.
“The calibre of people we have coming to this discussion is both distinguished and broad and we hope their input will help to provide some clear directions about where our research can be focussed to help to develop caring and effective approaches to people who  are often overlooked until they are in crisis,” Prof Procter says.
“Our aim is to develop the kind of research that will inform strategies not only to meet crises with better outcomes, but to avoid them in the first instance.”

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