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Mental Health Innovation Challenge gaining momentum as main event nears

More than 200 health professionals, students, researchers, and entrepreneurs have met across the region with the aim of developing innovative solutions to declining mental health fitness. A series of education sessions and practice challenges have been hosted in preparation for the main event this month.

Access to mental health services across the region is a critical issue as demand outstrips supply, a problem projected to worsen in the short term as the mental fitness of the community continues to decline. To address this, the Mental Health Innovation Challenge has been developed through a partnership between the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN), the University of Newcastle and the University of New England.

The Mental Health Innovation Challenge connects a variety of people and organisations to help solve specific problems. It uses an innovative, team-based explorative and iterative creative development process that can bring new concepts and solutions to life.

Three highly successful ‘Collider’ events or practice challenges were held in late February with attendees reporting an excellent experience.

“Amazing experience, I have to admit I didn’t know what I was walking into and I didn’t expect to have to deliver a speech under pressure in front of a group. However, I found rising to the occasion and working with so many amazing people to be extremely rewarding and would happily do it again anytime. Thank you for the opportunity.”

Currently, the number of emergency department presentations for mental health and behavioural disorders in the Hunter New England and Central Coast regions is higher than the state average, with the highest number recorded in remote and rural areas.

Richard Nankervis, CEO of the PHN said “evidence tells us that early intervention is key to achieving and maintaining mental health fitness. The PHN is exploring what we can be doing to address this need.”

Mr Warwick Dawson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Industry and Engagement with the University of Newcastle said the University of Newcastle is committed to working with our communities to help people live better, healthier lives – and that includes helping people focus on their mental wellbeing

“Our Integrated Innovation Network (or I2N) will support this important collaboration by helping teams turn innovative ideas into tangible solutions delivering impact for our communities.”

The Challenge is seeking the involvement of participants who are interested in innovative thinking, including but not limited to people from different professions (such as healthcare), people who have lived experience with or care for someone with a mental health condition, students, researchers, innovators, technology providers and entrepreneurs.

The main Innovation Challenge will be held on March 15 and 16, 2024.

For more information and to register, visit: Mental Health Challenge (

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