Drought Commissioner Mark O'Brien speaking with CEO of the Western Qld Primary Health Network, Stuart Gordon.
Drought Commissioner Mark O'Brien speaking with CEO of the Western Qld Primary Health Network, Stuart Gordon.

Turning personal battles into weapon to fight mental health

WESTERN Queenslander's who have experienced anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts are now playing a key role in co-designing mental health support services in the bush.

For the first time, one of Australia's leading suicide prevention organisations attended the Mental Health Roundtable event in Roma to 'be part of the conversation' about ways to support those struggling with mental health.

"First and foremost, we were at the event to listen and learn about what's happening on the ground in the region and offer any value we can," Roses in the Ocean CEO Bronwen Edwards said.

 

Dr Kylie Armstrong WQPHN and Bronwen Edwards
Dr Kylie Armstrong WQPHN and Bronwen Edwards

 

The CEO believes people who've been involved in mental health in any way - contemplated or attempted suicide, are bereaved as a result of losing a loved one, or have cared for someone through suicidal crisis, can play a valuable role as a 'lived-experience' person to bring about change in communities.

Roses in the Ocean was founded in 2011 after Ms Edward's brother Mark took his own life.

"Today's we were able to discuss how we can provide a welcome, safe space where people can go if they're in crisis, without having to go into an ED, which can often be a traumatic experience," Ms Edwards said.

"Providing access is a big thing we talked about and how services need to be available outside of the regular 9-5 hours.

"And where services can outreach and someone can go to a distressed person's home and just sit with them."

 

'Lived-experience' people are not always trained professionals and the CEO said it doesn't always take a clinical person to keep someone alive.

"Some need clinical support and others don't," she said.

"When someone is in a crisis period, they just need someone who will literally sit with them in pain and help them get through it."

 

Ms Edwards said programs need to be more inclusive and not focus so much on having criteria, such as being over 18-years-of-age or not under the influence of alcohol.

"We need to be able to accept anyone," she said.

"And if one service doesn't work, we need to figure out how we can take them to another place that will help."

 

Chief Executive Officer of the Western Queensland Primary Health Network, Stuart Gordon said the event is about organisations working together to find opportunities to collaborate.

"Especially, since the recent rain which has made it comfortable, we need to further ensure our services collaborate even at the best of times," Mr Gordon said.

"It's about understanding who's in the region and what they can offer.

 

For the Drought Commissioner Mark O'Brien, he stated the difference between floods and fires compared to the drought.

"Floods and fires have start and finish dates … you can see the issue, then clean it up," he said.

"Droughts are insidious things where you don't know where they started and certainly don't know when it's finished."

 

The longer the drought drags on, more uncertainty wears on the faces of members, especially their bank balances and their emotions, he said.

"I've noticed even since the rain, all those big questions are coming back to producers like 'two years ago I thought, if it rains, I'll sell up and get out', now that it's rained and the paddocks are full of grass, those questions are back and there's no certainty what to do," he said.

The commissioner has recommended government to identify what producers receive support during the drought.

If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

 

 

Mental Health Roundtables event in Roma on Wednesday March 11.
Mental Health Roundtables event in Roma on Wednesday March 11.

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