Worldwide themes- peer to peer mental health exchanges find many things in common
June 13, 2017
This year, the POST program was delighted to host Dr. Soo Shuenn Chiang from the Department of Psychological Medicine, National University Hospital in Singapore. The peer exchange and clinical placement program found that it was the shared elements of mental health care were at the heart of the exchange.
With broad goals of exploring community mental health services design, Dr. Soo spent time with a variety of teams in the public services at North Western Mental Health, St. Vincent’s mental Health, as well as meeting many more stakeholders across the community. This included time with community owned and managed services at Neami, Prahran Mission’s Hearing Voices program, Well Ways, and with the North Western Melbourne Primary Mental Health Network.
With this wide range of organisations, Dr. Soo commented that the recovery framework and peer involvement had a clear influence on the Australian government services and policies. This direction is also aligned with increasing community based and socially inclusive models of care in Singaporean and the peer support specialist movement, as advocated by the Singapore Association for Mental Health.
Physical Health was another area of shared concern, with documented health disparities in both countries, demonstrating vulnerability of people with mental illness to stigma and discrimination. In Australia, research has shown that many people living with psychotic illness found their physical health was one of the biggest challenges. In policy, physical health care of people with severe and persistent mental illness has been identified as a serious public health challenge, with many people experiencing a dualistic mental/physical approach from health care providers.
In public health, current strategies include partnerships with local government and facilities, building connections and learning from work in chronic disease prevention, improved collaboration across general practice and specialist mental health and acute services, adequate physical health care monitoring to be routinely included in the care of people with severe mental illness.
After spending time with the mental health services in Melbourne, Dr. Soo commented that the finding new health care pathways in Singapore communities could include the principles of the international innovations, as well as the ongoing processes of action and reflection for the Singapore context. The reflections from this peer exchange demonstrated the global relevancy of this goal – to equally value and support both positive physical and mental health outcomes of care.