The Liberal and Nationals Government is boosting mental health support in nine drought-affected communities, with Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Minister for Regional Services (Health and Communications) Senator Bridget McKenzie announcing a Trusted Advocates Network Trial to be rolled out in nine communities in four states.
“I’m delighted to be in regional New South Wales today and announce that nine communities in our drought affected areas in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria will be locations for a Trusted Advocate Trial, where we enable the local Primary Health Network (PHN) to reach out into the community and help those who are struggling with the impact of drought,” Minister McKenzie said.
“The local PHN will provide support and training to community leaders who are trusted faces in our towns and villages. Sometimes people don’t necessarily need to go through the clinical process at first instance – they just need someone to talk to who understands what the conditions are like in their community at that moment in time, and is a familiar, comforting presence already in their lives.
“This trial comes on the back of recommendations from Major General Stephen Day who we appointed Drought Coordinator last year, in recognition of just how damaging and widespread the current drought has been. Some of the feedback he received was that people who are already feeling stressed or concerned can find it hard to open up to people they don’t know. We have taken this feedback and developed this trial to enable local communities to strengthen their own local drought support network.
“As a result of these roundtable consultations with regional communities, the Government will provide $463,815 over three years in nine locations for additional informal mental health support and referral pathways.”
As part of the initiative, up to ten people per trial community will be identified and given basic training to learn the skills of mental first aid to assist them in their role.
“This trial gives our grassroots champions support to reach out and help those who need it most. Country people are strong, but their strength is being tested and the Government will do what it can to provide the right support in the right place, at the right time,” Minister McKenzie said.
The trusted community members will also receive training to identify risk factors as well as the ability to provide information on mental health services. The role itself is unpaid.
The Trusted Advocates Network is in addition to the Government’s Empowering our Communities initiative worth $24.4 million over two years from 2018-19, to fund community-led mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention initiatives.
The nine trial locations are Longreach and Goondiwindi in QLD; Scone, Cooma, Coonabarabran, Portland and Narrandera in NSW; Tailem Bend in South Australia and Sale in Victoria.
• Longreach – Western Queensland PHN – Maranoa
• Scone – Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN – New England
• Cooma – South Eastern NSW PHN (Eden-Monaro)
• Coonabarabran – Western New South Wales PHN (Parkes)
• Portland – Nepean Blue Mountains PHN (Calare)
• Narrandera – Murrumbidgee PHN (Farrer)
• Goondiwindi – Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN (Maranoa)
• Tailem Bend – Country South Australia PHN (Barker)
• Sale – Gippsland PHN (Gippsland)