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18 May 2015

Message from the Chair

A/Prof Morton Rawlin

Like many other Commonwealth-funded mental health organisations, the GPMHSC has been eagerly anticipating the results of the Review of Programmes and Services conducted by the National Mental Health Commission in 2014. The purpose of the review was to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of support systems for individuals experiencing mental health problems and their families.

The report was made available to the public in April of this year. With 25 key recommendations made under the banner of nine strategic directions, the report received broad support from key players in the mental health sector. The Federal Government is currently in the process of examining the review and consider the way forward. To read the report, visit the Commission's website.

In other news, I am happy to confirm that the GPMHSC has been refunded by the Department of Health for a further 12 months from 30 June 2015. We are very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to supporting the primary care sector by setting the standards for training in mental health into 2016.

A/Prof Morton Rawlin

For GPs

GP Mental Health Treatment Plan templates - rollout continues

In 2011, the GPMHSC created a "best practice" template for the GP Mental Health Treatment Plan (GPMHTP). Together with Monash University, the GPMHSC set out to create a document that would meet the requirements set by Medicare Australia, and enhance the communication between GPs, patients, and allied health professionals. A comprehensive literature review on assessment and treatment planning was conducted. Consultation with GP users and experts followed.

To reflect the diverse needs of GPs and their patients, four documents were created:

  • a template for use with adult patients
  • a template for use with children and adolescents
  • a 'SOAP' (Subjective-Objective-Assessment-Plan) template that adopts an alternative method for documenting information, and
  • a 'minimal requirements' template that covers the most basic information required for treatment planning.

The results of pilot testing in 2013-14 showed that GPs liked the templates but were keen to see them integrated into clinical information systems for greater ease of use.

The GPMHSC is currently working with a number of clinical information system vendors to integrate the templates into their software for GPs. Updates will follow in future editions of the GPMHSC eNewsletter. To trial the templates in MS Word format, visit the GPMHSC website.

Increased access to training for GPs in WA

The WA Faculty of the RACGP is now offering a full suite of GPMHSC-approved mental health activities. GPs based in the west can now attend all three levels of mental health training (MHST, FPS ST and FPS CPD). All courses are offered at College House in Perth. 

Dealing with depression

Saturday 28 June 2015

This highly interactive workshop will provide GPs with a practical framework for diagnosing and managing depression. Delivered in collaboration with the Black Dog Institute.
Approved for 40 Category 1 QI&CPD points and MHST.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling skills

Friday-Sunday 20-22 November 2015

This three day workshop is designed for GPs who wish to develop their knowledge beyond the basics and take their counselling skills to the next level. This course will explore the foundation principles of counselling, with a particular focus on cognitive and behavioural techniques.

Approved for 120 Category 1 QI&CPD points and FPS ST.

Emotional health of children

Saturday 8 August 2015

This one day active learning module (ALM) will upskill GPs in understanding and applying psychological strategies to intervene early in the prevention of children developing more acute mental health problems.

Approved for 40 Category 1 QI&CPD points and FPS CPD.


The benefits of mindfulness for patients with recurrent depression

Antidepressant treatment has long been considered the best maintenance option for individuals who have experienced a number of major depressive episodes. With many patients for whom antidepressant treatment is contraindicated and many more wishing to explore alternatives to medication, researchers are turning their attention to nondrug treatments. One such alternative is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT.

The aim of this treatment is to increase patients’ awareness of their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations associated with relapse of depression and respond adaptively.

Results of a large trial published in The Lancet in April show that MBCT is as effective in preventing relapse/recurrence of depression as maintenance antidepressants over a two-year period in individuals who have had three or more depressive episodes.

The GPMHSC has accredited several training activities in which mindfulness is a focus, including courses run by Monash University and Black Dog Institute. You can also opt to attend a program in mindfulness and then apply to the GPMHSC to have this recognised as mental health CPD. For more information, contact the GPMHSC Secretariat on 03 8699 0556 or at

For training providers

Carer and consumer representatives: An integral part of GPMHSC training

The GPMHSC believes that mental health consumers and carers play an important role in GP mental health education. The "lived experience" of consumers and carers must be incorporated into mental health skills training (MHST) and focussed psychological strategies (FPS) skills training courses. The Mental health education standards 2014-2016: A handbook for training providers stipulates active involvement of consumers and carers in the planning, development, delivery and review of MHST and FPS ST activities.

In the context of mental health, a consumer is a person with a personal experience of having a mental illness. A carer is a person with experience of being directly involved in the care of a person with a mental illness.

For the purposes of medical education, it is important that both consumers and carers are appropriately skilled to effectively contribute to the planning, development, delivery and review stages of the activity. Ideally they should have previously contributed to multidisciplinary projects in primary care or other mental health sector programs and be appropriately networked through a recognised consumer or carer advocacy organisation.

Where possible, consumers and carers should be from the local area and should be able to discuss their experiences with the local health system, and any barriers and enablers they have faced within the area. It is also important that consumers and carers contribute to the program from their perspective and do not take on other or dual roles, for example, a carer who has also experienced mental illness should not represent both the carer and consumer perspectives.

It is important that training providers are aware of the intense personal nature of sharing consumer and carer perspectives. Both consumers and carers need to be treated with respect by educators and activity attendees, and be appropriately supported in a sensitive manner throughout all four stages of the activity.

Training providers should be aware of the GPMHSC advice for incorporating the consumer and carer perspectives in mental health training which can be found on the GPMHSC website.

New resources for training providers

The GPMHSC has recently developed a suite of new resources to assist training providers in preparing specific CPD activities in mental health for the primary care sector. These documents provide a framework for the development of activities that impart the skills and knowledge required by GPs working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refugee populations, people in rural and remote locations, and in suicide prevention.

A variety of stakeholder groups and organisations were consulted in preparing the documents, which will be available on the GPMHSC website in June 2015.

The GPMHSC recommends that training providers review the information contained in these documents in planning new CPD activities in mental health for GPs, such as Mental Health Skills Training Clinical Enhancement Modules. Programs that focus on specific populations are likely to attract GPs who wish to extend their skills and knowledge in mental health.

It is hoped that the release of these new documents will assist in the development of activities that meet the learning needs of GPs, and ultimately, the health needs of patients.

Upcoming GP mental health training



MHST and FPS ST (combined programs)

Monday-Saturday 13-18 July 2015: Clinical Course, College of Medical Hypnosis, Brisbane QLD

Online activities