People battling mental health problems are often forced to re-explain themselves over and over to different medical professionals, which can be a daunting and tiring experience. That is one thing researchers hope to address with what is thought to be Australian-first 'mental health passport' which is being trialled at Epworth Camberwell.

As well as containing the person's history, the passport - which is in paper form for the duration of the trial - can serve as a communicative tool between patients and clinicians, helping them understand their needs, goals, signs and symptoms, as well as how to help when the symptoms are present.

Epworth Camberwell associate nurse unit manager Natalie Nardella said the goal was to ease the burden on patients.

"We want to empower patients," she said.

Many mental health patients often present to emergency departments, doctors and different specialists.

Ms Nardella, who is a research investigator for the pilot project, said the intention was to develop a resource which addressed all needs, including identifying goals of recovery.

"We don't mean the medical model of cessation of symptoms, mental health is about recovery - identifying what patients want, what impact it has had on their lives and work on regaining those things," she said.

"For example, some people have to stop working for a while because of the symptoms, or if they are younger stop studying, or others might find it more difficult to be in a parental role". 

"So recovery there would be returning to work".

Ms Nardella said the passport was not intended to replace clinician assessment, but hoped that it could help the prices which can be difficult when people are in distress. 

The trial is only taking place at Epworth Camberwell, but the researchers hope it will become more widespread.

Anyone interested in the program can phone the Epworth Camberwell clinic at 03 9805 4338.

News story: As published on 21 Jan 2020 in Herald Sun by Geordie Cowan, Progress Leader.

Picture courtesy: Valeriu Campan

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