PACFA welcomes National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) says counsellors and psychotherapists are ready to help fill mental health service gaps for children, as identified by the new National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

PACFA welcomed the strategy, launched on 12 October 2021, to address a situation in which:

  • more than 50% of Australian children with mental health issues are not receiving support
  • 50% of all adult mental health issues emerge before the age of 14
  • study findings that 50% of children with mental illness continue to struggle in adulthood.

The strategy, developed by the National Mental Health Commission, uses a ‘wellbeing continuum’ to describe the range of mental health and wellbeing - from good mental health to mental illness.

PACFA welcomes the attempt to shift the current mental health system emphasis on specialist intervention when children are mentally unwell, to prevention and early intervention. We also welcome the identification of a need for affordable integrated care for children under 12 years.

PACFA President Dr Di Stow said that counsellors and psychotherapists were being tragically under-utilised in the current mental health crisis and could be drawn upon to support the 50% of Australian children with mental health issues who were not receiving support. The strategy identifies the service system as one of the four focus areas to address if Australian children are going to get the mental health support they need.

‘Counsellors and psychotherapists are well-placed to provide support before children’s mental health challenges become mental illness,’ Dr Stow said.

PACFA’s recent member survey found that over 60% of respondents could see a new client within two weeks, with 23% being able to see a client with urgent mental health needs within 24 hours.

‘Additionally, more than 780 PACFA members have identified ‘Childhood and adolescent issues’ as one of their areas of specialisation.’

Parents can search for this specialisation when looking for a counsellor or psychotherapist via the PACFA website ‘Find a therapist’ function.

To be a member of PACFA counsellors and psychotherapists are required to have, at minimum, a degree qualification and 40 hours client contact, with clinical members having a massive minimum of 750 hours client contact experience.

The strategy identified that 30% of Australian children live in regional or remote areas, and 32% of counsellors and psychotherapists responding to our workforce survey also live and work in regional, rural or remote areas of Australia, a much greater percentage than psychologists or psychiatrists.

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Stephanie Francis, Communications Manager

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