Wilhelmina Brown

Wilhelmina Brown is the Mental Health and Regional Planning Program Officer at Central and Eastern Sydney PHN where she assists with the implementation of the Central and Eastern Sydney Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Regional Plan.

A graduate of the University of Sydney, Wilhelmina has completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences and a Master of Public Health. She has worked in a variety of roles in the health and social services setting with a focus on a holistic approach to health and wellbeing for communities across NSW.

As part of her current role at Central and Eastern Sydney PHN, Wilhelmina is proud to be a member of the National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network (MHLEEN). 


Title: “While You Wait” – Supporting GP and consumer engagement whilst waiting for specialist mental health services

Author(s): Wilhelmina Brown

Introduction: Between 2020 and 2022, CESPHN staff noticed an increasing demand for mental health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sydney lockdowns, and job insecurity. In response, CESPHN developed resources and projects through the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Council and the Central and Eastern Sydney Mental Health and Regional Plan. One outcome was the creation of the "While You Wait" resource, which addresses the gap between GP referrals and specialist mental health intake.

Method: The ""While You Wait"" GP resource pack was developed through a co-design process led by CESPHN. Initial consultation involved interviews and the formation of an expert working group comprising PHN staff, GPs, and primary care professionals. They identified a core issue: the gap between referral and consultation with a specialist. To bridge this gap, they collaboratively designed the resource to provid GPs with screening and referral pathway information.

Two prototype testing sessions, facilitated by Kath Thorburn (PhD student at CPHCE UNSW, co-founder of inside out & associates Australia), refined the resource based on feedback from consumers and carers. Released in 2022 on the CESPHN website, the resource aimed to cater to the needs of users.  

Results & Findings: In 2023, an evaluation of the resource's engagement took place, analysing online analytics and user feedback. One improvement identified was incorporating information on the physical health of individuals with mental health conditions.

Discussion: "The success of the ""While You Wait"" GP Resource Pack lies in its co-design principles, emphasizing equal partnership, openness, respect, empathy, and joint design. However, it was during the 2023 evaluation that the importance of integrating physical and mental health in primary care became evident.

By incorporating these suggestions and lessons learned, CESPHN can enhance the resource's effectiveness in supporting individuals and their care providers during the waiting period for specialist mental health services.

- Agency for Clinical Innovation (2017) Experience-based co-design approach infographic.
- Agency for Clinical Innovation (2019) Patient Experience and consumer engagement – A guide to build co-design capability.
- National Mental Health Commission (2017), Consumer and carer engagement: a practical guide.