Neurodiversity and challenges related to diagnosis and treatment in regional areas focus of annual CWA of NSW Awareness Week
With an increase in the number of adults being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the subsequent impact on diagnosis and treatment services and support, the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW will highlight the need for urgent changes to the current system during its annual Awareness Week campaign.
The 2023 campaign will run from 3rd to 9th September and will focus on increasing awareness around neurodiversity (which includes ADHD, autism, dyslexia and Tourette syndrome), with a particular emphasis on the growing number of adult women who are being diagnosed with ADHD and the challenges they face around diagnosis, and accessing suitable and affordable treatment options, especially in remote, rural and regional NSW.
“There are an estimated 1.5 million Australians with ADHD, many of whom are dealing with significant costs related to both diagnosis and treatment. The Association sees that increased awareness and understanding of these conditions is vital in shaping community perception, increasing funding into research, and encouraging strategies to make diagnosis faster and more accessible, whilst reducing the financial burden,” said CWA of NSW President, Joy Beames.
The issue was raised at the CWA of NSW’s annual State Conference in Bathurst in May 2023, when a motion was supported asking “governments to investigate ways to reduce the costs of diagnosing and treating adult (ADHD)”, with a number of branch members relating their own experiences of recent diagnosis and the challenges they had encountered. The Association has also made a submission to a Federal Senate inquiry into the “barriers to consistent, timely and best practice assessment of ADHD and support services for people with ADHD” which is due to report by September of this year.
This year, the CWA of NSW is partnering with the national ADHD Foundation in Australia, a not-for-profit organisation committed to providing help and support to people living with or supporting someone with ADHD, and ultimately “working to improve the lives of people with ADHD”.
Christopher Ouizeman, a director of the ADHD Foundation, said that ADHD could have a lifelong effect, significantly impacting a person’s ability to achieve educational aspirations, workplace satisfaction, social and relationship happiness.
He said the economic impact of ineffective recognition and treatment for those with ADHD was estimated at more than $20 billion, related to lower productivity, health, education and justice costs because of the reduced quality of life for the individual. The “supply and demand equation” related to an ADHD diagnosis was completely unbalanced currently, Christopher said, with demand exceeding supply “by a factor of 10”.
Dympna Brbich, chairman of the ADHD Foundation said the foundation’s national ADHD Helpline in Australia indicated there were more adults being diagnosed and that there is a spike in the demand for its services from the 30 - to 50-year-olds, many of whom were women who had been overlooked in their younger years.
“ADHD is not currently treated in the public system, and private psychiatrists are overloaded and many have closed their books to new patients. Therefore, this situation is putting increased pressure on people struggling to obtain an assessment and/or diagnosis in the first place. At the same time the small cohort of psychiatrists who are trained in this field have their books closed, are retired or reaching that stage, leaving those who are diagnosed without a continuing practitioner who can prescribe their medication.”
Joy said the Association was holding a webinar during Awareness Week on the issue, hearing from medical professionals, advocates and women in rural and regional communities with ADHD, and the challenges they faced being diagnosed as an adult.
“This is something people have for their whole life, and as a nation we have to get better at helping those with neurodiverse conditions because currently too many people are suffering from extensive delays and exorbitant costs that only increases the strain on their mental and physical health. This is particularly so in rural and regional NSW where health services are already under pressure,” she said.
“This Awareness Week we want to highlight these issues and urge governments at all levels to look to new and improved ways of addressing, and supporting those with, neurodiverse conditions. We hope the current Senate inquiry into the issue will also help progress these much-needed changes. In addition, we want to boost awareness of neurodiversity, and ADHD, and through greater awareness, reshape perceptions and build a greater acceptance of the potential differences in people with a neurodiverse condition.”
During this year’s campaign, the Association is calling for:
More awareness of ADHD in girls and women to ensure early diagnosis, leading to better treatment and support;
Increased recruitment, training and retention of, and support for, health care professionals to ensure client access to timely diagnosis and management of ADHD, particularly in rural, regional, and remote areas;
New ways to reduce the costs of diagnosing and treating adult ADHD;
Extension of access to all long-acting medications on the PBS for late diagnosis ADHD; and
More research into long-term outcomes of ADHD in girls and women – especially work that investigates how and why the disorder contributes to difficulties across the life span.
Joy said CWA of NSW branches would be holding their own events and activities during Awareness Week to raise awareness around the urgency of the issue.
To contact your nearest CWA of NSW branch to find out what they have planned for this year’s Awareness Week, follow the link: www.cwaofnsw.org.au/branches
If you or anyone you know requires support, they can contact the ADHD Foundation via [email protected] or by calling 1300 39 39 19.
Media enquires: please contact Kylie Galbraith, Seftons, 0411 480 208 or [email protected]