With October being Mental Health Month, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the critical work we progress on a daily basis to support wellbeing and mental health. One of the region’s major achievements is the development of the Murrumbidgee Mental Health Drug and Alcohol (MHDA) Alliance back in mid-2015, of which MPHN is a member. Over the past four years, this dedicated group of the region’s service providers have collaborated together to improve mental health and drug and alcohol outcomes for the people living across the Murrumbidgee region. The Alliances focusses on consumer outcomes not organisational outcomes and place the consumer at the centre of its thinking. Members actively work to identify opportunities for joint initiatives and funding opportunities, promote recovery as the highest goal for consumers, and recognise that this involves the whole consumer journey not individual parts of the journey.
We've seen some amazing achievements as a result of the Alliance’s partnerships and vision. Including an integration project working towards a region wide common referral form, shared care planning tool and digital mental health service directory which can be accessed by community and health professionals. We also developed a campaign which aimed to increase awareness of access to mental health services across the Murrumbidgee region. The campaign was informed by 20 focus groups and research following the campaign demonstrated that there was an overall awareness of support services in the after-hours period.
Recently members of the Alliance helped provide vital feedback to MPHN as part of our review into how we commission our mental health services. As a result of the review and its findings, we are progressing the establishment of MyStep to Mental Wellbeing model to be delivered locally through two service hubs. This approach will help support people accessing mental health services to be easily moved between the various intensities of care as appropriate. It will mean a smooth referral process, less points where people are required to share their stories, ease of access to other additional supports, and, with patient approval, healthcare providers can be included in information about their care.
Late last year we held the Murrumbidgee Suicide Prevention and Postvention Roundtable. This group included agencies such as police, ambulance, education, local government and federal members for Farrer and Riverina. The group identified several clear priority areas for our region to support mental health, suicide prevention and postvention and have worked together to build awareness of what mental health support is available, and build community capacity in terms of equipping communities with the necessary tools to support people experiencing mental ill-health. We have recently had our fourth meeting in which a final draft of a region wide communication protocol in the event of a suicide, suicide attempt, or other major incident. The purpose of this protocol is to ensure timely community and family support is available.
There are many other achievements in mental health of which I am immensely proud. The LifeSpan program continues to provide QPR training free to everyone living in the Murrumbidgee, and this year we will see a further 1,400 Year 9 students complete the Youth Aware of Mental Health Training.
MPHN has also funded more than $800,000 in Murrumbidgee Community Grants reaching more than 15,000 people in our region, the development of mental health diaries and calendars, and our Tell it Well stories.
In fact, our Tell it Well stories are at the heart of this year’s theme for Mental Health Month – Share the Journey. We know stories can be a powerful source of change for someone living with mental health issues. Stories connect us. They help build relationships and start conversations. I would like to encourage everyone to connect with each other this month, even if it’s for a cuppa or a walk, and talk. Check in and let your loved ones know you are there for them, or reach out for support. After all, we know tough times can happen to anyone.