Chris Gibbs, CEO of MHPN reflects on the challenges faced by mental health practitioners and organisations, including MHPN itself, during the turbulent year of 2021.

The year 2021 has been very challenging for all of us. I would like to take this opportunity acknowledge the efforts of all those working in different roles across our health system who have kept services functioning in the face of extreme difficulties. Through our connection with GPs and community mental health practitioners across the country, MHPN have experienced firsthand the disruption and pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for practitioners in both their professional and private lives.

Like all organisations, MHPN have continued to rethink our modus operandi. This year saw the endorsement by the Board of an MHPN Statement of Purpose, which affirms a commitment to the promotion of interdisciplinary practice and acknowledges the importance of online networks and podcasting as significant new additions to the suite of services that MHPN can offer to practitioners.

The impact of COVID-19 saw MHPN’s network program suffer, dropping in 2020 to under half of the previous year’s level of activity – with online meetings becoming the dominant form of communication. In good news, the last quarter of 2021 has seen the strong re-emergence of face-to-face networks and continued growth in online and hybrid networks. A more stable environment promises much for 2022.

The MHPN Online Professional Development Program including both MHPN initiated and contracted webinars, the new podcasting program and the webinar library have performed strongly through this challenging time, enabling MHPN to maintain a healthy overall level of engagement with practitioners.

I would like to acknowledge the critical role the network coordinators play in the leadership and support of networks. MHPN continued to actively support all coordinators in the reporting year, including those who were unable to run network meetings due to restrictions on movement and surge in demand for intervention. We welcome their continuing commitment to MHPN and to interdisciplinary practice and look forward to supporting them into a new year.

Finally, on behalf of MHPN I wish you a happy, safe, and restful festive season.

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The Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) respectfully acknowledges the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which our office is situated. We also acknowledge Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.