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Mental Health Innovation Challenge seeks new approaches to address mental fitness

The Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) has partnered with the University of Newcastle and the University of New England to take an innovative approach in helping to identify solutions that will address the mental health crisis across our region.

Access to mental health services is a critical issue as demand outstrips supply. This problem is projected to worsen in the short term as the mental fitness of the community continues to decline.

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 that in 2021, 11.5 people in 100 in our region reported experiencing a mental health condition, including depression and anxiety. However, we have no clear insight into the additional numbers of people who live with mental health issues and do not seek professional help.

“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,” he said.

The PHN, working in collaboration with the University of Newcastle and the University of New England, is leading a Mental Health Innovation Challenge in March 2024.

"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,” said Mr Warwick Dawson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Industry and Engagement with the University of Newcastle.

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

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

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.

A series of events will be held in February 2024 with the main Innovation Challenge to be held on March 15 and 16, 2024.

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