A ‘Whole of Community’ Response to Mental Health
Article by Mary-Anne Quilter
It is often said it takes a village to raise a child. This sentiment that a community collectively provides the supports individuals need to live a meaningful and healthy life exists too for those living with mental illness.
Knowing where to start, however, can be a sizeable stumbling block. Information is available everywhere – but knowing where to find what you are looking for can be a challenge and in some cases, the ultimate frustration. Assuming you are satisfied with the relevancy and currency of the information you have found, the next hurdle is to identify the supports and services you, a family member, friend, or employee, is seeking.
In recent months I have been visiting rural and regional communities in Queensland to promote a national mental health initiative which can provide information and connect people to the services they are seeking in their communities. In the smaller towns, I feel I have spoken to the converted. By necessity, they are well connected and informed of the programs and supports available in their communities. They may not have all the services they need, but they work with what they have to support their community members. In larger regional areas, where outreach services become more common, these connections become more tenuous and as an out-of-towner who attempted to identify key contacts prior to my visit, it was not until on the ground and speaking with a range of service providers that I was more aware of what was available.
So, for elderly carers, those with disabilities and living with mental illness, mothers of children with complex mental health issues, and many others, the ability to identify and access the supports they need can at best be difficult and in many cases, overwhelming. In smaller communities their chances may be better, as a Community Development Worker or another key person in the community is likely to be aware of their situation and provide whatever assistance they can using their local knowledge and contacts. For others, in larger regional centres and metropolitan areas, finding that first contact point and ongoing support is perhaps less likely. Feedback our organisation has received from our members over many years has been that this is the case and many become tired of being passed from agency to agency, and simply give up.
In promoting recovery for those living with mental illness – supporting them to live the life of their choosing in their community – we must all be aware of the distinct yet supportive roles we play in our village. This means ensuring we are well connected, we are aware of what each can offer and taking a ‘whole-of-community’ response to mental illness.
Do you have a comment on this story? Join the conversation on Twitter @TheMHCA
Article contributed to the newsletter Perspectives - June 2014. Please note that this article is from an individual contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mental Health Council of Australia