National Mental Health Workforce Strategy an opportunity that must be taken

Australian Psychological Society

The peak body for psychology in Australia has welcomed the release of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy, urging Federal and state governments to continue working with the sector to fully realise this nationally important project.

Australian Psychological Society (APS) President Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe said the need to continue the momentum towards better mental health services was critical.

“The workforce shortfall in psychology is one of the largest in the country, with just 35% of the Federal Government’s workforce target currently being met.”

“APS data shows before the pandemic 1 in 100 psychologists were unable to take new clients. This is now 1 in 3 across large parts of Australia.”

“If we deliver this strategy in full properly funded, we will have a more sustainable and well-supported workforce capable of delivering mental health treatment and support tailored to current and future community needs” said Dr Davis-McCabe.

“Psychologists and clients have advocated tirelessly for the services the community needs, and this strategy provides a roadmap to making this a reality.

“By working together, we can deliver a modern mental health system for all Australians. We mustn’t let this opportunity go to waste.

“We thank the Albanese Government for their continued collaboration”, she said. The APS was a member of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce.

The strategy acknowledges several challenges facing the mental health workforce in Australia:

  • Workforce shortages across different occupations and disciplines
  • Stigmatization and negative perceptions related to mental health professions
  • Unclear scopes of practice, particularly in multidisciplinary teams
  • Limited collaboration across mental health professions
  • Workforce distribution disparities, especially in regional areas
  • Limited availability of high-quality data for workforce planning
  • An overall surge in demand for mental health services

To achieve these aims the strategy sets out five overarching goals:

  1. Attract a skilled mental health workforce.
  2. Train and educate mental health professionals.
  3. Maximize the potential of the existing workforce.
  4. Provide comprehensive support to mental health workers.
  5. Retain a motivated and coordinated mental health workforce.

To support these goals, the APS is strongly advocating for the federal government to:

  • Close the current workforce gap by bringing university funding for psychology in line with medicine, dentistry and veterinarian studies
  • Replicate GP regional relocation incentives for psychologists, including wiping off HECS-HELP debt
  • Introduce higher regional Medicare rebates
  • Invest in paid opportunities for provisional psychologists to work in supervised positions
  • Ensure regional communities have sufficient internet access to utilise telehealth, and
  • Invest in regional perinatal and digital health services.

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