Doctors encouraged to learn more about mental health to better help children
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is encouraging GPs to undertake new mental health training to help children who’ve experienced disasters, as doctors across the nation deal with increasing mental health presentations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and last summer’s devastating bushfires, and with the next fire season approaching.
Two courses from Emerging Minds, National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, have been made available to RACGP members on the RACGP website.
The first course builds knowledge and skills in child mental health assessment and management in general practice, and the second focuses on supporting children and families after natural disaster or community trauma – including in the immediate aftermath, short and long term.
RACGP have undertaken this measure following a recent Monash University study which found that the COVID-19 pandemic was having a profound impact on children’s mental health, with data from general practices in Victoria and New South Wales showing a spike in anxiety, depression and eating disorders among those aged up to 14 years since the beginning of the pandemic.
Dr Penny Burns, RACGP spokesperson, encouraged GPs to take up the new training, saying that when it comes to children, “it’s vital that we can provide timely and appropriate mental health support in times of need – especially in the aftermath of disasters when families and communities are struggling to pick up the pieces.”
“Patients often turn to their GP for mental health support – they may feel more comfortable talking to their GP, with whom they have an ongoing relationship and trust. Many patients in rural and remote areas have nowhere else to go for these services,” Dr Burns said.
Speaking on behalf of Emerging Minds, Director Brad Morgan said that, as longitudinal care providers, GPs are in an ideal position to both observe and make a difference in the trajectory of children and families.
“GPs have an essential role in assessing children’s mental health however, their role can also provide prevention-oriented guidance and support to the entire family. Both courses have been developed together with GPs and families from across Australia, they are designed to practically meet a need and walk GPs through the process of identifying, assessing and supporting children with mental health difficulties.”
For more information on the work undertaken by Emerging Minds, please see the website, here.