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Opinion: Mental health role for all

Wednesday, 10 July 2024

Rachel Tindall 2024Dr Rachel Tindall (PhD), Acting Co-Director, Mental Health Drugs and Alcohol Services

Attitudes towards mental health and psychological distress are evolving, but there is more to be done to reduce the associated stigma. As providers of mental health services, we want to encourage people to seek help and we need to reduce any barriers for people needing treatment and care including addressing adverse community perceptions to ensure people feel free to approach our services.

We know that the media and in particular news coverage can influence community perceptions of people with mental illness and psychological distress. The media has played an important role in addressing stigma and bias by breaking stereotypes and removing sensationalism from coverage of tragic events. The media also has a role in promoting empathy and dispelling myths in our community.

Mental health services work hard to create nurturing and supportive environments for consumers who often feel vulnerable. Barwon Health cares for approximately 6000 consumers with acute mental health needs every year, providing evidence-based treatment and care and support for their recovery. Over the past year, approximately 2500 of those consumers who were supported by Barwon Health were first-time users of our service.  It is important to us they feel welcome to access our service.

We are working closely with our consumers to amplify their voices and better understand the perspectives of people who have lived experience with mental health services. We know that the more we listen and understand consumers views we can improve the support we offer.

A practical application of listening to consumers was the role the Lived Experience Network played in developing the new Central Geelong Mental Health Hub. Located in the heart of the Geelong CBD, the Central Hub will provide opportunities for people to access and receive help from a variety of local mental health service providers in one location. Treatment and care will occur in spaces that have been specifically designed to ensure people feel welcomed and safe when they reach out for help and advice. As we strive to address the evolving mental health needs of our community, opportunities like this demonstrate the change that can occur when there is commitment, collaboration and shared knowledge.

This is an exciting step forward for mental health service provision in our region and hopefully improves access to anyone needing mental health, alcohol and drug services.

I encourage everyone to consider how you can make an impact by being thoughtful with language and understanding the challenges facing people who access support. We can all help reduce stigma, promote empathy, dispel common myths, and advocate for the supportive policies and resources that will address mental health needs more effectively.