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Empowering Australians to meet mental health challenges

In a drive to deliver better support for our community's wellbeing, Dr Kim Johnston is implementing a collaborative, whole-of-community approach to mental health education.

With an expansive background in mental health practice, Kim has worked as a psychologist in family therapy, youth mental health, and addiction services, across the community, government and the private sector. Kim brings this wealth of experience and industry knowledge to the education programs she oversees, including Monash’s online Master of Applied Mental Health.

Mental health in our time

In 2018 the Australian Government established a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the state of mental health. The Royal Commission into Mental Health held public hearings, workshops, and consultations across Australia, and received more than 10,000 submissions from individuals, organizations, and government bodies. The report featured some sobering statistics.

‘One in five Australians will experience a mental illness in any given year, and just almost 50 per cent of adults will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives.’

The final report makes 143 recommendations and provides a much-needed overall shift in the way we think and talk about mental health. They emphasise the nature of mental health as a societal issue and the importance of a holistic, collaborative, and strength-based approach to mental health care and education.

A pivotal point of discussion is the need for an improvement in terms of a wrap-around care model. This model places individuals at the centre, with integrated services surrounding them. It also presents a philosophical change in how mental health care is managed, with a focus on supporting and elevating the voice of those experiencing mental health concerns and a drive to improve mental health literacy in the broader community.

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A collaborative approach to education

Kim is helping to incorporate this same notion of inclusivity and collaboration into our Applied Mental Health courses. An approach of bringing unique perspectives, multidisciplinary knowledge and lived experiences to the curriculum benefits the whole student group and allows meaningful links from the classroom to mental health practice.

‘Students are co-creating the content as they too have expertise, whether that is personal or work-based expertise. So, it’s about power sharing; we are collectively sharing that experience. Empowering students to have a say, to be involved and to make changes in their own lives and workplaces.’

This environment is further enhanced by our flexible, online study framework. Students can now access education that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Recently there has been a larger uptake from diverse backgrounds, including students who have faced mental health challenges and parents – some with special needs children. Introducing alternatives to a strictly on-campus learning model is part of our strategy to create more opportunities.

Dr Kim Johnston standing on a landing

‘Online education is social justice in a nutshell because it opens up those opportunities for students and then provides a pathway for them to contribute their life experience professionally.’

The growing demand for mental health workers

As a priority area, an increase in student uptake must be maintained to support the growing demand for mental health workers in Australia. ‘We forecast around 24 per cent of growth in the mental health sector in the next five to 10 years.’

Along with the surge in demand, there is also increasing awareness in the community regarding the importance of prioritising mental health and wellbeing. It’s an exciting time to be studying an applied mental health course and for the future of this industry. As a result of the Commission, there’s been a realisation that we need to do things differently and our students are collectively helping to change the narrative around mental health. We need to change the system and to change it we need more empathetic and passionate voices to join forces with changemakers like Kim.

Learn more about our Graduate Certificate of Applied Mental Health and our Master of Applied Mental Health at Monash by calling a course consultant today on 1300 272 509  or  arrange an online booking with a consultant.

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