Although postdisaster mental health sequelae are recognized, the role of mental health services in primary care after disasters has not been investigated. This study examined the uptake of enhanced primary mental health services delivered via the Australian government mental health response to the 2009 Victorian bushfires and considered the consumer outcomes associated with them.
Data from a national Web-based minimum data set enabled description of consumers, sessions, and treatment outcomes. Key informant interviews provided supplementary qualitative data.
From January 2009 to June 2011, a total of 1,535 consumers received 9,949 sessions via enhanced primary mental health services. Most had depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, or both. Clinical outcomes data from standardized mental health outcome measures demonstrated statistically significant gains indicative of clinical improvement.
Primary mental health services were well utilized and received by bushfire-affected individuals in most areas and produced positive outcomes for consumers in terms of reducing symptoms and improving psychosocial functioning. Enhancing existing primary mental health services shows promise as a means of responding to bushfires and may be applicable internationally in other disaster contexts. (Psychiatric Services 63:868–874, 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100534)