A Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic and mental health advocate has played a leading role in the development of a national program launched in Canberra today.
The Chair of the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC), Professor Allan Fels, AO, launched the Equally Well National Consensus Statement and the Equally Well initiative at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Co-Chair of the Committee charged to lead the national implementation of this initiative, Associate Professor Russell Roberts (pictured) in the CSU School of Management and Marketing, said the launch of the Equally Well National Consensus Statement is an important step forward to address the priority area of the physical health of people living with mental illness.
"Charles Sturt University is honoured to play a lead role in coordinating the implementation of this initiative," Professor Roberts said.
"There was significant participation in the development of this national consensus statement by interested stakeholders across Australia representing consumers and carers, government, private and non-government sectors.
"They all share a common vision of people living with mental illness receiving the same equity of access to quality health care as the rest of the population."
Professor Roberts said the draft Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan identifies 'Improving the physical health of people living with mental illness and reducing early mortality' as a key priority area.
"The physical health of people living with mental illness is a matter of importance for all health and human service professionals," he said.
"Almost 80 per cent of people living with mental illness also have a mortality related physical health condition. People living with serious mental illness die on average 20 years younger than the general population.
"Experts from medicine, nursing and allied health and from key health organisations have recognised the importance of this problem, and this is one of the reasons why there is such a strong consensus that physical health of people living with mental illness needs to be a national priority."
Professor Roberts said the national implementation group is founded on the principles of collaboration and coordination across sectors and agencies.
"The nature of the Equally Well initiative is that we all have an important role to play. All sectors − carers, consumers, state and territory governments, non-government organisations, private industry and professional bodies − are partnering as equals to improve the physical health of people living with mental illness," he said.
Associate Professor Russell Roberts is Chair of the Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium, and Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Rural Health. He is also Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Rural Health at the University of Sydney.
Find out more at www.equallywell.org.au