Serving the Territory
The Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition began in 2007 auspiced by NTCOSS, and in 2011 became incorporated as the peak body for the NT community mental health sector. The Coalition has been serving the sector since that time, ensuring a strong voice for member organisations and providing advice and policy input into mental health service provision across the NT to all levels of government.
As a member of Mental Health Australia and a founding and board member of Community Mental Health Australia, the Coalition also contributes a perspective on the provision of effective and accessible mental health services in the Northern Territory.
Northern Territory context
Health services in the Northern Territory are provided in the context of unique geographic and demographic factors which significantly affect the delivery of high quality mental health services. Over 43% of the NT population (600 communities and remote outstations) reside in remote or very remote areas. Social and economic disadvantage have particular links to remoteness and the lack of services.
The NT is further characterised by an ageing population and experiences high levels of chronic disease and co-morbidities. In 2015-16, the Annual Report Department of Health noted 3,282 admissions to hospital with mental health diagnosis.
Key issues in the NT
The Coalition engages with a broad range of key populations, service providers, research and funding bodies and other stakeholders within the mental health sector to ensure that policies and services are well-informed and responsive to the needs of NT’s diverse communities.
Some of the key areas that are current focal points for the Coalition include:
The partnership with the NT Primary Health Network (NT PHN)
The Coalition partnered with the NTPHN in 2019 to undertake a comprehensive review of mental health and suicide prevention service provision in the Northern Territory.
The review mapped mental health and suicide prevention service systems by consulting with service providers, clients and carers to gain a better understanding on how systems work, and to look at how systems can be improved to more effectively meet the needs of people to access mentalhealth services across the Territory.
The review is based on a Stepped Care Model and explores what this model means for the NT. This review guides the NT PHN in commissioning mental health and suicide prevention services into the future.
Indigenous mental health is a major concern for our member organisations. Indigenous people make up 43% of all consumers assisted by community mental health services, however Indigenous people only make up 30% of the Territory’s population. Indigenous people are also over-represented in admissions to mental health inpatient facilities (52%) and 22% above the overall population. Although there are mental health services and programs in the larger populated areas across the Territory, the Coalition’s position is that Territorian’s living in remote communities should have access to the same high quality, evidenced based mental health services.
The Coalition also supports the continued development of high quality mental health services and programs that are co-designed and led by Indigenous people.
In our submission to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, the Coalition stated;
‘There are high rates of mental ill-health amongst young people in the Northern Territory, particularly amongst Aboriginal young people due to high levels of disadvantage and unresolved intergenerational trauma. We can expect that a high proportion of young people in detention have mental health issues, and that incarceration under current conditions will worsen their mental well-being’ (see full submission here).
The Coalition’s position is that the youth detention system needs a thorough top-to-bottom reform including: reorientation from a punitive to a therapeutic approach, and ‘wrap around’ access to mental health and other services.
View the final report from the Royal Commission here.
The Coalition continues to work and support suicide prevention services and programs across the Territory.
The Coalition recently supported Suicide Prevention Australia’s consultations in Darwin and Alice Springs on their Strategic Framework developed as part of the 5th National Mental Health Plan.
The National Suicide Prevention Trial was announced in Darwin has been chosen as one of the 12 regional sites for the National Suicide Prevention Trials. The trial site will focus on Indigenous people in the Greater Darwin region. The Coalition was invited to attend the first Suicide Prevention Roundtable meeting hosted by Minister Ken Wyatt. This is the first step in the process of the NT PHN working with stakeholders to co-design services.
The Coalition has also attended and participated in the National LGBTIQ Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Strategy consultations.
The Coalition remains committed to the NDIS and the benefits it will bring to the lives of people living with a mental illness. It is important that Governments work in partnership with community managed mental health service providers to develop solutions to concerns and issues in delivering the NDIS across the Northern Territory.
The NDIS is currently being reviewed. The Coalition has reported through submissions that people with psychosocial disability in the Territory have been disadvantaged by the removal of block funded programs such as Partners In Recovery (PIR) and Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMS). The Coalition advocates that people living with psychosocial disability and who have not been able to effectively advocate for services on their own behalf, have been greatly disadvantaged by not being able to articulate their needs through an interpreter, advocate or a Carer. Place based, integrated models of care including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives of Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Healing should be delivered and adequately funded.
The Coalition, alongside the National Psychosocial Support Advocacy Alliance, advocates that the Commonwealth Government must fund flexible, low barrier-to-entry services that sit outside of the NDIS for people in need of ongoing mental health services.