Flinders Uni tackles rural mental health workforce shortfall

3 minute read

A $3.8m initiative banks on training the workforce in non-acute settings to encourage them to stay in mental health after graduation.

Flinders University aims to expand the reach of quality mental health services in underserviced rural and remote settings, through a $3.8 million DoHAC grant.

“The goal is to increase the number of mental health clinicians by enhancing numbers of student placements across South Australia, including areas like Mount Gambier, Barossa, Renmark, Murray Bridge and Victor Harbor, while also contributing real support to clinicians working in those communities,” said project coordinator Natalie Papps.

“This funding initiative provides key resources to further facilitate regional placements for students, enabling telehealth supervision and providing specialised supervisor training.”

With the shortfall in mental health workers projected to hit 42% by 2030, according to the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy, the initiative aims to drawing on strengths across mental health disciplines at Flinders University and “hub and spoke” approaches to mental health training that will “enhance the state’s workforce capacity and increase opportunities for more students to take up training in these fields”, according to the project’s leader, Professor Chris Brebner.

“This approach aims to create a stronger pipeline of future mental health workers by training more students in non-acute mental health service settings, thereby encouraging them to enter the mental health sector upon graduation,” said Professor Brebner.

The project includes a wide collaboration of Flinders University staff from the colleges of Education, Psychology and Social Work, the college of Nursing and Health Sciences and the college of Medicine and Public Health (Rural Health) and Work Integrated Learning departments.

“We want to be part of transforming mental health and wellbeing across South Australia and to fearlessly tackle the mental health workforce shortage as a key part of our mission,” said interprofessional chief investigator Associate Professor Lydia Woodyatt.

“In the past two years, for example, Flinders has doubled the number of postgraduate places to provide more opportunities for students wanting to become registered psychologists – in part through the introduction of the Masters of Professional Psychology.

“This new funding will consolidate the progress we are making and further enhance our capacity to provide opportunities to train in psychology as well as occupational therapy, mental health nursing and social work.”

The national workforce strategy includes funding to create 500 new postgraduate psychology places, 500 one-year internships for provisional psychologists and 2000 subsidised supervisor training places – including 1000 refresher places. It also seeks to upskill the broader health workforce in mental health, including undergraduate nurses, midwives and allied health students.Do you have a story tip for us, or a topic you would like to see us cover? Contact the editor at editor@healthservicesdaily.com.au

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