Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

Support for parents essential to mental illness prevention

Apr, 2022

‘Joining forces to prevent mental health conditions,’ reads the tag line of Prevention United. ‘Australia needs a new approach to mental health and wellbeing.’ 

It’s a goal that the organisation’s CEO Dr Stephen Carbone hopes will be furthered in this year’s State Budget.

“The mental health promotion side of things is often overlooked,” he says. “Prevention United’s core focus is mental health and prevention of depression and anxiety in the first place.”

This can be achieved with further funding for mental health promotion, a request included in Mental Health Victoria’s submissions to the Victorian Government for this year’s Budget.

The requested $3 million per year could be invested in a variety of ways, he says. “Implementing evidence-based programs such as parenting programs, schools-based initiatives to teach kids on fundamental social and psychological strategies, workplace wellbeing initiatives.”

Unlike many areas of the budget allocated to mental health, funds for mental health promotion don’t need to be used to build entirely new programs, Stephen says. “Services are struggling to keep up with demand and we’re chasing our tail … The focus is on improving the quality and quantity of these programs. There are some out there but there’s not enough, and they’re not reaching enough people.

“It’s all about trying to scale up, have more people engage with them and more communities have them in their local area.”

Programs that can easily be upgraded include the Royal Children’s Hospital’s right@home program, a home nurse visiting program aimed at helping vulnerable families with wellbeing and child development, the Baby Makes 3 family violence prevention program and Monash University’s Partners in Parenting program, which focuses on preventing anxiety and depression in teens.

“All of these have got a solid evidence base and are ready to go to a broader audience but currently only have funding to cover small areas,” Stephen says.

Parenting programs a key to prevention

The presence of so many parenting programs on his funding list is no coincidence. By providing support to parents, Stephen says, we ameliorate the mental health concerns of future generations.

“The more support we can give parents to give that harmonious environment free of conflict – kids notice and their mental health gets impacted by the pressure parents are under,” he says.

He points out the stresses that new parents face, adjusting to life raising a child and the new roles they take in relationships. Parenting supports like the programs listed above, he says, are a vital part of an infrastructure that helps grow healthy and happy children.

Another vital part of this infrastructure, he says, is proper analysis and research.

“We need these programs as well as basics of better data collection and more research – those core building blocks to build up the prevention system.”

Looking to State for adequate support

Stephen is looking to the State Government for funds after a disappointingly low investment from the Federal Government in the recent Federal Budget. “In the federal budget there was very little allocated, really underspending compared to the billions required.”

“The Commonwealth Government has just announced support for Triple P’s Positive Parenting Program – but that’s not going to be effective for everyone,” he says.

“There’s not a magic bullet that is going to be effective for everyone.”

Stephen welcomes the moves already made by Victoria’s government to support mental health reform, but sees areas, such as prevention, that still need shoring up.

“The new investment by the Victorian government will make a big difference,” he says, “but at the end of the day we need to do more to keep people well and that’s where the budget will come into it.”

“The fact that the State Government has established the Mental Health and Wellbeing Office — all kudos to them for setting this office up. Now they have to make sure they’ve got the funding to channel out to the communities.

“I think the government has shown a genuine commitment to mental health. Everyone’s got constraints but they’ve got the levy now and it’s about spending the money wisely.” 

Annual mental health promotion funding is recommendation #3 in Mental Health Victoria's budget submission to the Victorian Government.

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