Mental healthcare in focus

In 2017-2018, one in five Australians reported experiencing a mental or behavioural condition while 286,985 presentations to public hospital emergency departments were mental health-related.

Patients are most likely to attend hospital during a crisis, with nearly 79 per cent of mental health-related emergency department presentations classified as either urgent or semi-urgent.

The Emergency Medicine Foundation is supporting research to improve specialised and coordinated mental health assessment and treatment, for better patient outcomes and staff wellbeing.

One EMF-funded study is examining whether more patients are presenting to northern Queensland emergency departments under an Emergency Examination Authority since Queensland’s amended Public Health Act took effect in 2017.

Dr Richard Stone, Director of Emergency Medicine at Cairns Hospital, is leading the study in collaboration with Professor Alan Clough from James Cook University who led the study design.

“The research collaboration has established a platform to monitor future impacts of environmental changes on the population, including the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Professor Clough.

Mental health care delivery can be more challenging in remote communities and in some cases, patients require air transportation to hospital for treatment during a severe behavioural episode.

Patients suffering an acute episode such as psychosis can be unpredictable, making sedation important during air transportation to safeguard the patient as well as staff on-board.

Research led by CareFlight and funded by EMF is examining two commonly used in-flight sedation methods to determine which is safest for patients with acute, severe behavioural disturbance.

As the demand for mental health assessment and care increases, clinician-researchers are also investigating how well existing services integrate into the emergency department environment.

EMF is supporting one such evaluation which researchers hope will help health services to implement, adapt or redesign current practice as needed to improve care received by patients.

For staff in the frontline, the mounting pressure of emergency healthcare delivery can lead to increased stress and anxiety, particularly during the unprecedented global health crisis.

Emergency nurse practitioner and PhD candidate Hui (Grace) Xu shared insights and coping strategies for a recent article on emergency healthcare clinician wellbeing.

“Healthcare workers are human; we have families and loved ones and we feel deep emotions towards this critical pandemic,” Grace explained.

A study led by Grace and funded by EMF is testing whether regular use of a mindfulness smartphone app can reduce occupational stress among emergency department staff.

Prioritising mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever. For more information visit lookafteryourmentalhealthaustralia.org.au.


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