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Australian College of Mental Health Nurses welcomes bushfire funding

Photo: Health Times
As the nation faces one of its biggest ever crises following the catastrophic bushfires, thousands of Australians will grapple with the mental health consequences that result from the devastating loss of property and lives.

The Federal Government has pledged $2 billion to undertake the rebuilding efforts of Australian communities affected by the fire disasters, with a specific commitment to invest in mental health services – a move welcomed by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.

But ACMHN President, Eimear MuirCochrane said the organisation would like to better understand what proportion of the funds will go to mental health services, how the funds would be deployed, and importantly, that mental health received the dedicated focus its deserved.

“Rebuilding a home, a town or even a tourism industry has very measurable goals and outcomes, but rebuilding a human’s mental health is another challenge entirely,” she said.
“ACMHN members are ideally placed to understand the enormity of the mental health challenges we will face in the weeks, months and years ahead and it is important to ensure those most in need are being given the resources, funds and physical means to reach a mental health nurse.”

Mental health nurses are skilled at addressing both the physical and the mental needs of the community – an effective, wholistic approach to recovery.

According to the ACMHN, mental health nurses attached to GP clinics, state or federal health systems, or as independent practitioners in the wider community are an effective and cost-effective way to address the wider needs of the community in times like these.

“They have the practical and pragmatic skills to address both mental and physical needs,” said Ms MuirCochrane.

“An important consideration for the Government is that we will have many Australians displaced by the fires for months to come, so their regular and familiar doctors and practitioners may not be available as a resource.”

Likewise, she says, assistance should be tangible. Offering a rebate for health services is counterproductive if people don’t have the funds to service appointments at the outset. Even Worse, would be a failure to offer rebates at all for mental health nursing services.

“ACMHN welcome further information being made available about the commitment to mental health and ask the Government to consider how they will bring professional services directly to those in need.

Ms MuirCochrane said it was important to remember that mental health issues will be faced, not only by those who suffered direct loss, but those who were impacted in other ways.

“These are people who have potentially fled a fire zone, have family affected or even just those processing what they are seeing in the media.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.