Call for Narrandera community members to become Trusted Advocates

MPHN is currently seeking expressions of interest from local Narrandera community members to consider becoming a Trusted Advocate to listen and support people who are feeling the impacts of the drought on their mental health and wellbeing.

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MPHN CEO Melissa Neal said Trusted Advocates are trusted members of the community that may or may not have a lived experience of mental illness or demonstrated resilience in dealing with adversity, and are called upon to support their community in times of need.

“We would expect to see people who may be interested in becoming a Trusted Advocate in Narrandera are probably already providing farmers and their broader communities with some sort of support, even if it’s as simple as having conversations about the stress and anxiety caused by the drought,” Ms Neal said.

“These trusted people may not be equipped with appropriate skills, training or strategies to manage these types of discussions, but they may have some knowledge of available online and face-to-face support services to refer members of the community on to for additional support.

“Perhaps people already providing support may belong to community organisations such as Rotary, Lions, Country Women’s Association or in positions such as stock and station agents, retired farmers, local councillors or local pharmacists.

“While being a Trusted Advocate is a volunteer role, those taking up this opportunity will receive appropriate training to identify risk factors, to promote self-help and person-led treatment to farmers, their families and community, and reimbursements for reasonable expenses, like fuel or other out-of-pocket expenses that could be incurred in delivering support. Debriefing opportunities for the Trusted Advocate to ensure they’re mental health and wellbeing is also supported in this role.

Trusted Advocate from Mate Helping Mate and retired farmer from Stockinbingal John Harper said it was his own experience with mental health that led him to his support role.

“Generally, I would say most farmers are coping relatively well and that’s because we went through the Millennium Drought and a lot of us older farmers have been through several others before that. I think the biggest thing I see in my travels through Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales is the hidden fear that our little towns and communities are slowly dying with the drought,” Mr Harper said.

“I couldn't help myself with my mental illness, but I found you’d do anything for a mate. I realised that my mates were struggling, and other people were too. And by getting my mates together and talking, I discovered it picked me up, too.”  

“I made the point of telling people, if you see a mate, you actually shake hands. Shaking hands is important. You stop and you make time for people. You make eye contact, there's touch.

“I would encourage anyone living in the Narrandera region, who already is often looked upon for support from your local community to seriously consider becoming a Trusted Advocate,” he said.

The Trusted Advocates initiative is part of the Australian Government’s Empowering Our Communities program, which provides funding to support mental health and wellbeing in drought affected communities. The Trusted Advocates Network is a trial and a result of consultations undertaken by the Coordinator-General for Drought, Major General Day as part of the National Drought Taskforce.

To discuss becoming a part of the Trusted Advocates Network in Narrandera, please contact Larah Harding at MPHN on 02 6923 3147, or email Larah.Harding@mphn.org.au. To learn more about MPHN’s drought support initiatives, visit www.mphn.org.au/drought-support.

Read more about John Harper’s story at www.mphn.org.au/story/john.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency should call the Mental Health Line 1800 011 511, Lifeline 13 11 14 or call 000. Or to access the Head to Health website visit www.headtohealth.gov.au.

Monica McInnes