Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in Australia play a crucial role to strategically ensure that general practitioners (GPs) and their practices have access to quality mental health training and that they are equipped to support not only their patients, but themselves.
At Larter, we are witness to the efforts of PHNs in undertaking this role. General practices’ needs have exacerbated since the COVID-19 pandemic began. For GPs and their practices, it is not business as usual. Not only are they operating with the added logistical pressures of COVID-19 testing and vaccination, they are experiencing, along with their patients, the ongoing mental and financial impact of constant change, restrictions and lockdowns.
Even before the pandemic…
- We knew that GPs were the first professional contact in over 70% of mental health cases in Australia
- We knew that psychological issues, including depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance, are the most commonly seen presentations in general practice, with 64% of GPs reporting it in their three most common reasons for patient presentations and
- We also knew that GPs, especially those without mental health training, may lack confidence to assist and manage such patients due to feeling they have insufficient knowledge.
At the time the pandemic hit, Larter was in discussions with CheckUP Australia about taking over their mental health training packages. Passionate about supporting Australian PHNs and GPs with the forthcoming mental health strain emerging from the pandemic, it was agreed that we would review the training and source additional trainers. It was a great opportunity to ensure the packages were practical, easy to access, flexibly delivered as to avoid any logistical issues with intermittent lockdowns, and most importantly reviewed and critiqued by GPs, psychologists, consumers and carers with lived experience. We also wanted to make the training interactive and practical giving GPs and their teams ample opportunities to role play and receive feedback from an experienced facilitators, and to engrain a strong sense of GP and clinician self-care.
We are really pleased to have delivered Mental Health Skills Training (MHST) – Level one and Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS) – Level two to GPs, practices nurses and mental health clinicians on behalf of Northern Queensland PHN, Western Queensland PHN, Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN, and Darling Downs, West Moreton PHN since the pandemic hit. We’re now keen to offer the training to clinicians throughout metro Queensland PHNs and interstate PHNs.
Accredited by GPMHSC, RACGP and ACCRM, Larter’s GP Mental Health Education is specifically designed to equip GPs, practice nurses and mental health clinicians with a toolbox of evidence-based material and techniques to allow them to practically assist patients with a broad spectrum of mental health presentations, including:
- use of mental health screening tools
- ability to recognise red flags and identify risk of self-harm or suicide
- use of de-escalation and mental health first-aid techniques
- supportive counselling
- motivational interviewing
- structured problem solving
- cognitive and dialectical behavioural therapy strategies
- clinician self-care.
The Larter education team works closely with the Larter consulting team who are enmeshed in primary care, PHN and general practice settings. With real-time feedback about current and emerging issues we are able to quickly respond to develop training modules that meet current training needs. We are always learning from our PHN and clinician colleagues and will continue to refine, tweak and make improvements to the training. A recent improvement we have made is to move training materials to an online training portal to ensure ease to access. We have also introduced a process whereby participating consumers and carers are tasked with delivering 4 key positive messages on how their GP has or could have made their appointment a more positive experience. One such experience was a carer talking about their GP genuinely including them in planning and decision making as well as allowing them their own individual appointment to discuss concerns not only about the person they were caring for, but their own self-care.
For more information: Larter Consulting, p. 1800 527 837, e. firstname.lastname@example.org
 Thompson A, Hunt C, Issakidis C. Why wait? Reasons for delay and prompts to seek help for mental health problems in an Australian clinical sample. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2004;39(10):810–17
 Richards JC, Ryan P, McCabe MP, Groom G, Hickie IB. Barriers to the effective management of depression in general practice. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2004;38(10):795–803