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Connections form Mental Health Innovation Challenge


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. 

Access to mental health services has hit crisis point, with demand outstripping supply. 

And, with the problem projected to worsen in the short term as the mental fitness of the community continues to decline, three Hunter groups are actively planning to tackle the problem head-on. 

The Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (PHN), University of Newcastle and the University of New England are hoping to identify solutions that will address the mental health crisis across our region.

The trio will launch The Mental Health Innovation Challenge in March. 

With 11.5 people in 100 in our region reporting experiencing a mental health condition, including depression and anxiety in 2021, PHN CEO Richard Nankervis says there’s no clear insight into the additional numbers of people who live with mental health issues and do not seek professional help.  

Early intervention is key. 

“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 Nankervis said.  

University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor of Industry and Engagement Mr Warwick Dawson says the priority is 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 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 take place in February with the main Innovation Challenge scheduled for 15 and 16 March. 

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