Page 4613 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005

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Beyondblue is a national, independent, not-for-profit organisation that is focused on addressing the issues associated with depression, anxiety and related substance misuse disorders in Australia and to reduce the stigma associated with those illnesses. The national depression initiative works to promote early intervention and prevention of depression through programs and research activities. It provides information about real life experiences of people with depression and, importantly, possible effective treatments.

I am very pleased that ACT Health has worked with beyondblue to develop a new funding agreement, and that is what was signed yesterday. The new agreement actually started on 1 July this year. The ACT contribution to beyondblue is $70,000 per annum. The ACT has been in partnership with beyondblue now since 2000-01 and I am very pleased to be continuing that relationship. Initially Beyond Blue was established in 2000 between the commonwealth and Victorian governments and has since been expanded across the country.

Why is this initiative important? It is important because it is estimated that around 20 per cent of people in Australia will experience depression at some point in their life. It is a widespread and concerning illness. It is one of the most significant worldwide health problems that we now see emerging. In fact, it is recognised that, by 2020, it will be one of the most significant illnesses worldwide. It is very important that we as a community work to reduce the stigma associated with depression, as well as providing as much support as possible to those who suffer from it.

Mental health remains a key priority area for the ACT government. We are constantly striving to improve funding and resources for people with mental illness, not only in terms of treatment and recovery, but also in terms of good health promotion, prevention and early intervention. The partnership between the ACT government and beyondblue allows us to continue this important work.

I would like to highlight to members one of the really useful initiatives that is funded as a result of the ACT government’s engagement with beyondblue. That is the postnatal depression program. This has been an important initiative for the ACT. The work has provided valuable data, as well as improved outcomes for women and their families here in the ACT.

There are other beyondblue activities that are in place across Australia that we are able to take advantage of here in the ACT because of our partnership with beyondblue. They include the perinatal mental health project and the E-Couch program being developed by the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research. The perinatal mental program has involved the screening and assessment of perinatal depression and the provision of information and education to primary health care givers and has contributed significantly to understanding the key risk factors, in particular past histories of abuse, depression and anxiety, when it comes to perinatal depression.

The E-Couch program is an electronic health counselling and information website that has been developed by the Centre for Mental Health Research at the ANU. This website is in the final stages of its development. It will be ready for pilot in 2006 and will provide

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