” Responding to the National Cabinet announcement of $48.1m to support a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan including an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing pandemic response plan to be developed and implemented through Indigenous leadership.
Indigenous leaders look forward to positive changes.
Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention leaders specifically have called for an Indigenous phone help line, operated under Indigenous leadership and with Indigenous counsellors and mental health practitioners available 24/7.
The time to close the Indigenous helpline gap is now. Indigenous people have long been challenged by mental health difficulties at higher rates than the general population. And the current COVID – 19 pandemic has only identified increasing needs in our Indigenous communities.”
Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) Chair Ms Tania Dalton said:
Many people think an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) phone helpline already exists, but in fact it’s a major gap in the mental health space.
AIPA have identified and long called for such a helpline and want this gap to close, as there has never been a more acute need than now.
Even though social isolation is easing, tens of thousands Indigenous people including Elders and those who are vulnerable to the virus due to chronic disease are still having to live with social distancing and – with the threat of second and third waves – the prospect of returning to isolation.
For them, anxiety, loneliness, cumulative trauma, and depression have never been a greater challenge. To be able to access culturally safe Indigenous mental health support by calling a helpline and speaking to an Indigenous person has never been more important.
In 2014, AIPA began working on helpline proposals that were released in 2016 as ‘Call a Cuz’.
AIPA call on Australian Governments to reconsider the proposal, or one like it, and work with AIPA and other Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention leaders to develop an Indigenous helpline as a matter of urgency.
Australian governments need to work with AIPA, Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP), Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia and other Indigenous stakeholders, in the wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention space to develop a helpline as soon as possible.
This may require a workforce training plan and other elements, and collectively we are more than capable of rising to these challenges with adequate funding.
UWA Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) National Director, Professor Pat Dudgeon commented:
In these times of Coronavirus isolation and lockdown measures our community members in remote, rural and urban settings are very vulnerable and have limited access to professional support yet have elevated levels of anxiety, depression and cumulative trauma. Mental health experts are predicting that suicide rates will raise by 50%.
Like AIPA, CBPATSISP have long advocated for an indigenous phone help line as part of a wider response to Indigenous suicide.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, we were working productively with Lifeline to that end, and produced a report
“Wellbeing and Healing Through Connection and Culture” that Identified the need for a dedicated Indigenous tele-counselling help line /service to support our people when they require culturally safe mental and emotional wellbeing support.
“These are uncertain times. There are many unknowns.
As humans, we’re hardwired to crave stability. If you’re feeling worried and unsettled that is perfectly understandable.
I felt that myself during my recent period of self-isolation in London. At an event for young people called WE Day, I spent quite a bit of time with Sophie Trudeau, the First Lady of Canada.
When she became unwell and tested positive for COVID-19, I was concerned about potentially becoming sick a long way from home.
What I found reassuring was that the public health advice that was so clear. The recommendation to me was to self-isolate for 14 days from the time of contact.
Fortunately, I stayed fit and well in that period and all my London friends and colleagues, as well as visiting Aussie mates, made sure I had food and stayed connected with video conferences, calls and silly messages.
On my return to Australia I will self-isolate for another 14 days, and I know family and friends will help me through.
For me, this experience has reinforced how a significant part of the solution to this pandemic rests with us.
The daily decisions we make now are critical and every single one of us has a part to play.
Our individual acts can have a powerful collective impact, helping protect those most at risk in our community.
Simple things really matter – good hand hygiene, avoiding mass gatherings, keeping a 1.5 metre distance between ourselves and others, and staying home if we’re unwell or if we’ve been in contact with someone who is.
Beyond Blue recognises and understands the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and offers the following wellbeing advice.”
While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
2.Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage
Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.
3.Access good quality information
It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.
To contribute to a sense of community wellbeing, try to remember that the coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity and remember that those with the disease have not done anything wrong.
6.Managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine
There are a number of ways to support your mental health during periods of self-isolation or quarantine.
Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus.
Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus.
Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone.
Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods.
Try to maintain physical activity.
Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits.
For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing.
7.Children and young people
Families and caregivers of children and young people should discuss news of the virus with those in their care in an open and honest way. Try to relate the facts without causing alarm, and in a way that is appropriate for their age and temperament. It is important to listen to any questions they may have, to let them know that they are safe and that it’s normal to feel concerned.
If the media or the news is getting too much for them, encourage them to limit their exposure. This video has some useful tips for talking to young people about scary stuff in the news.
Beyond Blue’s Be You initiative has also developed the following resources to help educators support children and young people’s mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.
8.Support for those experiencing financial hardship
As the ongoing spread of the coronavirus continues to affect the global economy, many people in Australia are losing jobs, livelihoods and financial stability. For information and services provided by the Australian government, please visit Services Australia.
Health care workers may feel extra stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a normal response in these unprecedented circumstances. Such feelings are not a sign of weakness and it’s important to acknowledge this. There are practical ways to manage your mental health during this time, including:
getting enough rest during work hours and between shifts
eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity
keeping in contact with colleagues, family and friends by phone or online
being aware of where you can access mental health support at work
if you’re a manager, trying to create mentally healthy work structures.
It’s important the general public recognises the pressure that health systems and workers themselves are under and takes steps to support them where possible. Following government advice about ways individuals can help slow the spread of the virus will support the health care workers who are saving lives and keeping people safe.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed by news of the outbreak. We encourage people who have experienced mental health issues in the past to:
activate your support network
acknowledge feelings of distress
seek professional support early if you’re having difficulties.
For those already managing mental health issues, continue with your treatment plan and monitor for any new symptoms.
Social contact and maintaining routines can be supportive for our mental health and wellbeing. In circumstances where this is not possible, staying connected with friends and family online or by phone may assist. Beyond Blue also has a dedicated page on its forums about coping during the coronavirus outbreak.
Acknowledge feelings of distress and seek further professional support if required.
“Congratulations Galambila Coffs Harbour on the successful tender to address Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in your region.
NACCHO applauds the Galambila Aboriginal Community Controlled efforts to ensure our people have ready access to these vital services at the local level.
We believe Galambila will be best placed to ensure these services are not only high quality and professional but most certainly are culturally relevant, appropriate and safe for our people who need to use them”.
“NACCHO welcomes the funding for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention from the PHN and looks forward to this outcome being replicated with all our Member ACCHs throughout the country.
Well done in leading the way in this important initiative“.
Pat Turner CEO NACCHO
Pictured above with PHN representatives are Local Federal Member Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP with Galambila Chair Reuben Robinson, Board members Christian Lugnan , Kerrie Burnet and CEO Kristine Garrett
North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) is excited to announce funding of $300,000 for Galambila Aboriginal Health Service in Coffs Harbour to deliver the Aboriginal Mental Health Capacity Building Project in partnership with Werin Aboriginal Medical Service in Port Macquarie.
The project will:
Put in place integrated social and emotional wellbeing plans for Aboriginal people in Port Macquarie with complex needs, focussing on improving wellbeing and recovery
Develop a tailored care model for Aboriginal mental health in Coffs Harbour and Hastings Macleay
Improve cultural competence for health professionals working with the Aboriginal community
Improve awareness among the Aboriginal community of mental health and suicide prevention services
NCPHN’s Chief Executive Dr Vahid Saberi said the project would be an innovative and much needed addition to mental health services available for Aboriginal people.
“The latest figures available show that Aboriginal people on the Mid North Coast and Hastings Macleay are experiencing nearly twice the yearly hospitalisation rate (2857) of non-Indigenous people (1654) for mental health related issues.
“We are pleased with the scope of the Galambila project which includes the development of a special care model for Aboriginal mental health,” he added.
Galambila’s CEO Kristine Garrett welcomed the project funding.
“The Aboriginal Mental Health Capacity Building Project will improve mental health outcomes for local Aboriginal people,” Ms Garrett said.
Galambila Aboriginal Medical Service was awarded the funding as a result of a tender process. Organisations were invited to establish novel mental health services, as well as implement projects to increase the capacity of the mental health system to respond to the needs of Aboriginal people and support their access to services.
Through North Coast Primary Health Network, the Australian Government has provided funding of $3.8 million for mental health, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol services and projects to improve the health system. Over coming months, NCPHN will use this funding to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of mental health and drug and alcohol services across the region.
ABOUT NORTH COAST PRIMARY HEALTH NETWORK (NCPHN)
We work alongside community members and health professionals to improve access to well-coordinated quality health care. Our aim is to work together to transform the healthcare system and reduce health inequities.
Our work begins by gaining an understanding of health care needs of the North Coast.
This needs assessment involves our community, clinicians and service providers and is available for all to use. We use this information to work with health professionals and community members to find gaps and facilitate local solutions.
We do this by commissioning services – this is a new way of all of us working together to design services that best meet our community’s needs. Our priorities are
Better mental health and emotional well-being
Closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
Improving our population’s health and wellbeing
Building a highly skilled and capable health workforce
Improving the integration of health services through electronic and digital health platforms
Improving the health and wellbeing of older people
“We are undertaking this crucial reform because the Mental Health Commission and Expert Reference Group found there were over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia, but no co-ordinated way to access them.
This means people with specific mental health needs may not have been aware of specialist services or were falling through the cracks altogether.
It also means many of these mental health phone services were being overburdened – or underutilised – because people were not aware of alternative services that may better suit their mental health needs.”
The Hon. Sussan Ley MP Minister for Health Mental Health Gateway to save lives Press Release May 15 : Picture above example of a Gateway
A re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will continue delivering on our promise to develop a digital mental health gateway that will ensure Australians get the right help at the right time in a bid to stop people falling through the cracks and save lives.
Reports that some phone counselling services have had their funding ‘axed’ are therefore incorrect and misleading.
Our digital gateway is a key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission’s (MHC) landmark Report and is being implemented in line with the guidance provided by our independent Mental Health Expert Review Committee, who were tasked with taking the MHC’s findings from paper to policy.
In addition to our digital gateway being a first point of entry to mental health services across the country, Australians will have the option to call one single phone number to access the mental health phone and online services they need.
This single phone number will act as a triage service that will put them in touch with a specialist phone or online service that is best suited to their personal circumstances.
For example, the triage service may determine a person would be best serviced by a specialist counselling service addressing LGBTIQ mental health or eating disorders, rather than a general service.
The triage service is not designed to replace existing phone counselling services, but enhance access to them.
Australians will still be able to call their preferred phone counselling service directly if they believe this is the best service to help them.
We are undertaking this crucial reform because the Mental Health Commission and Expert Reference Group found there were over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia, but no co-ordinated way to access them.
This means people with specific mental health needs may not have been aware of specialist services or were falling through the cracks altogether.
It also means many of these mental health phone services were being overburdened – or underutilised – because people were not aware of alternative services that may better suit their mental health needs.
Another key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission was that some – but not all – phone and online mental health services may be unnecessarily duplicating each other’s work and funding may be better targeted to ensure a high-quality mix of services to cover the varying mental health needs of Australians by filling service gaps.
The Coalition will therefore work with all phone and online mental services to transition to this new model of improving access to over-the-phone/online mental health services from 2017-18, including greater funding security. Until then, all services will continue to be funded at current levels.
I understand the importance of mental health organisations running fundraising drives, however it is important their campaigning methods do not end up hurting those who they are ultimately meant to help.
Labor treated mental health as a “second-term priority”. Only the Coalition is committed to delivering these brave and bold reforms aimed at ensuring Australians with mental health issues no longer fall through the cracks.
Recommendations from the Mental Health Commission’s Landmark Report
“Currently telephone helplines are not integrated, they do not have common standards and there are limited referral pathways. There are various levels of duplication of target client groups and potential to be accessing the ‘wrong door’ by users.”
“For telephone and online support services, the strategic direction is in creating a ‘joined-up’ model of crisis support helplines, with each helpline playing its part according to its expertise. This would reduce duplication, increase efficiency and enable collaborative work.”
“Create a coordinated, better integrated model of telephone and online support services, including crisis support and seamless pathways to online and offline information, education, biometric monitoring and clinical intervention.”
Improve access to services and support through innovative technologies
“Improve emergency access to the right telephone and internet-based forms of crisis support and link crisis support services to ongoing online and offline forms of information/education, monitoring and clinical intervention.”
“Implement cost-effective second and third generation e-mental health solutions that build sustained self-help, link to biometric monitoring and provide direct clinical support strategies or enhance the effectiveness of local services.” Volume 1, page 11
Recommendations from the Mental Health Expert Reference Group Implementation Report
“The ERG acknowledged the evidence that demonstrates telephone and e-mental health services can play a significant role in a stepped care model of mental health service delivery if there were triaging, clinical guidelines and targeting of their use. The ERG endorsed appropriate promotion of existing self-help and clinician moderated e-mental health services to consumers and clinicians as an important component.”
“The ERG noted the significant number of providers in this space, some of whom provide similar or competing services. A simpler structure and a secure funding base for these services is required. A single telephone line linked as appropriate to other telephone based services was proposed. Similarly, the ERG supported the consideration of how a single gateway for web-based services could be utilised to provide initial triage and to facilitate consumer access to the most appropriate services.
This would encourage and enable optimal use of the web-based services that are available, particularly in the context of better promoting the availability of self-help services to individuals who could benefit from them. The ERG recommended the Commonwealth work with the states and territories to streamline entry to all e-mental health services through one national gateway.”
“The Commonwealth should immediately:
Establish a single gateway and platform for initial access to existing web based services.
Similarly with phone based mental health support, a single phone access point should be established with the capacity to provide soft transfer to other phone services. Ensure a simple triage system is developed and offered through these new arrangements.”
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are becoming more comfortable about discussing mental health, a Mount Gambier health organisation says.
And while the sector struggles to find trained Aboriginal health professionals, Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Health Service’s new chief executive, David Copley, says times are changing.
He said communities were no longer as afraid of the stigma of mental health as they were in the past.
“It’s something that we don’t talk about openly as a community and we haven’t in the past but we are getting better at it,” he said.
“The more open it becomes in mainstream, the more open it will become in Aboriginal cultures.”
The Kaurna Peramangk man is the only male Indigenous mental health nurse in South Australia.
He said the health service is better equipped to service the south-east community after a senior social worker recently gained additional qualifications.
This now enables doctors to address mental health referrals to the facility.
“It also gives us somebody who’s aware of the cultural needs, has worked in the area and now has the qualifications to say to mainstream, ‘hey, if you’re having trouble referring, make us a first stop for Aboriginal people, because we have the expertise’.”
Mr Copley said it took a long time to support his staff members through cultural, vocational, mental health and family skills training.
He said despite the lengthy process and red tape, he hoped more of his staff would gain similar qualifications.
“Long-term we would like to see more of our mental health practitioners go through that process and get that experience, those skills, of working with Aboriginal people so we can provide more case management, better client services,” he said.
Cultural issues keep people away from doctors
Mr Copley said many Aboriginal people did not deal with their mental health issues because they had withdrawn from seeing “mainstream” doctors.
He said many people were looking for culturally appropriate care from practitioners who understood the causes of mental health issues for Aboriginal people.
“In Mount Gambier, we have a large Stolen Generation, a lot of trans-generational trauma and if you’re a mainstream practitioner that may not be something you’re familiar with,” Mr Copley said.
“We have quite a high percentage of that down here and that is because people were taken from various parts around South Australia and moved to Mount Gambier or to the Coorong, and wound up here, so it’s quite a complex issue.
“The other thing we don’t talk about — which is added on to that as well, and we like to think it’s dead in this country, but it’s not — is racism.”
Mr Copley said Aboriginal health services were essential.
“You’re not judged because most of us who work here have either been down that road ourselves to some degree or have family members in that position,” he said.
More Aboriginal health workers needed
Mr Copley said there was a substantial lack of trained Aboriginal health professionals but he had seen improvement.
Aboriginal liaison officers work to assist young people complete Year 12 and move on to university and Mr Copley said he knew of students looking to enter the health field.
“One who has had a gap year and one who is about to finish Year 12, who are both looking at going to do social work at university here,” he said.
“And another one who is looking at going and doing social work interstate.”
He said Pangula Mannamurna would offer those students support and placements.
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