People living with a mental illness have almost five times the rate of being hospitalised and four times the rate of premature death from vaccine-preventable conditions. Proactively offering vaccination to people with serious mental illness would save $84 million in hospital costs each year in Australia.
Despite the clear inequity in vaccination for people living with a severe mental illness, there are no guidelines, advice or resources designed for this group. Mindgardens is addressing this critical issue by piloting a new type of vaccination clinic, and joining with international partnership Equally Well to advocate for a global approach.
About the project
Keeping the Body in Mind: Vaccines began with a COVID-19 vaccination clinic within the Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service in collaboration with the Kirketon Road Centre primary health service. This model, run by mental health peer workers and nurses, achieved vaccination rates among people with severe mental illness that were comparable to the general public.
Based on this success, NSW Health’s Health Education and Training Institute (HETI) funded a pilot project to co-design and run a comprehensive vaccine service – offering all recommended vaccines, not just COVID-19 – within the Eastern Suburbs Mental Health Service. The service provides vaccinations opportunistically to people who use mental health services, and can be offered wherever people feel most comfortable, including in their home or at a mental health community centre. Family members and carers are invited to attend appointments and receive vaccinations at the same time, providing additional protection.
The results so far demonstrate that peer workers with their own lived experience of mental health issues are essential to the model, as they are well placed to understand people’s concerns and inform and reassure them.
Keeping the Body in Mind: Vaccines has now been funded by the Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network to expand to the Sutherland and St George mental health services and include an additional nurse specialist and peer worker.