Closing the mental health treatment gap in palliative care

Kirsty Smith, Janelle Wheat, Janelle Thomas, Julianne Whyte

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation only


Background & aim Research shows there is a skills gap in the health workforce who care for terminally ill and palliative patients when it comes to identifying and addressing patients’ mental health (MH) concerns. The ‘Listen Acknowledge Respond’ (LAR) project was established to fill this gap by developing and delivering training for healthcare professionals (HCP) to address the MH needs of those living with dying. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of the LAR training on HCP’s practice.
Methods All HCP registered for the LAR 2-day workshops were invited to complete an online survey prior to commencing training. Participants were surveyed again at 3-, 6- and 9-months post-training to compare changes in self-reported confidence and frequency of use of MH screening and therapeutic tools.
Results or Expected outcomes More than two thirds of responses from NSW were from HCP in regional (33%) and rural (34%) areas. Pre-training surveys show 75% of all HCP regularly screen for MH issues, which increased to 91% 3-months post-training. Half of respondents pre-training were not confident applying the two most commonly used diagnostic tools, and this decreased to one third in surveys 3-months after training. Mindfulness is the most commonly used therapeutic approach both before training (81% of respondents) and 3-months after (91% of respondents), and confidence in using this therapy increased from 55% in pre-training surveys to 72% 3-months after training. Data from surveys 6- and 9-months after training are still being collected, however initial responses and phone interviews with HCP who attended the LAR workshops show HCP’s self-reported knowledge, skills and confidence in using MH tools and therapies has increased significantly since participating in the LAR training. This presentation will provide an overview of survey findings conducted pre-training and 3-, 6- and 9-months post-training.
Implications Palliative care patients have unique needs when it comes to identifying and treating their mental health concerns. Providing targeted training to HCP is improving their confidence in using MH tools and therapies, thereby offering an important approach to bridging the gap between mental and physical health service provision, and improving the welfare of these patients along with their families and caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2017
EventWestern NSW Health Research Network (WHRN) Symposium - School of Rural Health, Orange, Australia
Duration: 16 Aug 201717 Aug 2017 (Symposium information)


ConferenceWestern NSW Health Research Network (WHRN) Symposium
OtherResearchers and health professionals will attend a major conference focussing on rural health in Orange in August.
The Western NSW Health Research Network will hold its annual research conference on August 16-17 at the University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health on the corner of Acacia Way and Canobolas Drive.
WHRN chairperson, Associate Professor Catherine Hawke said the conference promoted locally-generated health research and encouraged communication between researchers and the community.
Internet address

Grant Number

  • 101104
  • 101105


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