Nurses back special mental health training

A plan to boost the number of mental health nurses by introducing a specialised undergraduate degree has been backed by an industry body.

A Productivity Commission draft report found that the number of specialist mental health nurses practising in GP clinics, community health services and aged care facilities needs to significantly increase.

It recommended a specialist, three-year undergraduate degree be introduced in mental health nursing, as well as a dedicated registration system for mental health nurses with advanced qualifications.

Australian College of Mental Health Nurses executive director of operations Stephen Jackson compared the situation with that of midwives, who have always had this specialised undergraduate degree.

"In addition to the data available on mental health statistics, one only has to glance at the media each day to know that mental health in Australia is a growing issue and training specialised practitioners to manage and treat patients is crucial," he said.

"We need to ensure that we are putting the measures in place to train those who can support and care for Australians affected by mental health."

The most recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 13 per cent of Australian adults are experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress, and 20.1 per cent have experienced a mental or behavioural condition.

Productivity Commission hearings into mental health care will continue into December.