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GPs Equipped To ID And Treat Mental Health Complaints

Depression

Federal Government funding will enable general practices across the Wide Bay to roll out StepCare, an innovative digital screening and treatment service for common mental health conditions.

The service, funded by Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN would provide new opportunities for general practices to identify and treat mental health conditions.

Patients will complete an online questionnaire on a tablet in the GP waiting room to identify people with potential mental health issues.

A patient might have an appointment with their GP for a separate health complaint but the new screening service could detect if they were also feeling anxious, stressed or depressed.

Most people who have underlying anxiety or depression don’t actually seek specific treatment so this is another way to identify people and start the conversation.

StepCare was developed by the Black Dog Institute and trialled in general practices in urban, rural and regional NSW. Data from the trials showed that 19% of patients showing symptoms of depression or anxiety had not talked to their GP about their mental health in the past.

“This shows that StepCare is effective at identifying people who may not have sought help for mental health issues,” Black Dog Institute’s StepCare Program Manager Dr Elizabeth Hanley said.

“The program is about supporting GPs and improving the opportunities to screen and monitor mental health issues and match appropriate services to the needs of the individual as early as possible.”

PHN Senior Manager, Robb Major said the data showed more than 74,000 people in the PHN region would require treatment for mild to moderate mental health concerns.

“In our region we could almost fill the Gabba twice with the number of people needing support to improve their mental wellbeing,” Mr Major said.

“Early intervention can make a huge difference in reducing the impact and duration of mental illness.

“There is no one size fits all approach to mental health but new technologies like StepCare have made it possible to improve how we identify and support people in emotional distress.”

Ten general practices across the PHN region have been recruited to deliver the service, with six on the Sunshine Coast, one in Wide Bay and three in Central Queensland.

Michelle Price has been working as a journalist since 1999 and loves human interest pieces.

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