An award-winning Illawarra strategy for treating personality disorders will be further expanded statewide after a $5.5 million funding boost.
NSW Mental Health Minister Tanya Davies on Sunday announced the funding for the Project Air Strategy, based at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute at the University of Wollongong.
Already operational in 11 local health districts in NSW, the funding will enable the project to be rolled out to the remaining four by 2020.
It will also cover ongoing training and resources for health staff and the expansion of the Gold Care Clinic initiative to help patients move from emergency departments to treatment in the community.
Project Air founder Professor Brin Grenyer said the strategy was established in 2011 to ensure more tailored treatments for people with personality disorders.
“While emergency departments and hospitals, and medications, might be appropriate for other mental health disorders, people with personality disorders need psychological therapy,” he said.
“So the main aim of Project Air is to ensure we’re using local health resources in a much more effective and sensitive way than in the past, and providing better access to psychological care.
“Personality disorders affect the whole community, so the project uses a ‘whole of community’ approach to engage individuals, their families, health services, schools and communities.”
Prof Grenyer said in NSW almost half a million people would meet diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder, with about 75,000 people actively seeking care.
“Personality disorder (such as borderline, antisocial, narcissistic and obsessive-compulsive) is a recognised mental health disorder,” he said.
“People with personality disorders suffer from emotional dysregulation and often have problematic relationships. They may self harm or have suicidal thoughts.”
Those experiencing a personality disorder represent about 25 per cent of mental health presentations to EDs and admissions to mental health inpatient units.
Ms Davies said: “Often these people arrive at the hospital in distress. With Project Air, they are assessed through what we call the Gold Card clinic to ensure targeted treatment and rapid follow-up.
“… We are seeing this unique project significantly reduce presentations to EDs and shorten hospital stays, because the right help is getting to people faster.”
For details visit www.projectairstrategy.org. For help call Lifeline on 13 11 14.