Mental health expert urges residents: time to act is now

IN THE short time Robyn Considine has spent in the Clarence Valley, she has seen a community that is engaged and willing to do whatever it takes to create a healthier future for our youth.

And when it comes to reducing the consequences of mental health issues on a wide scale, the Associate of the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health says that is half the battle.

>> New mental health plan coming for Clarence Valley

Next week, she will start community consultations with individuals, service providers and the general public in the Clarence to get a better understanding of issues specific to our region and determine the current level of structural resources and opportunities to create a cohesive and localised mental health strategy.

"I have looked at the data and there is obviously a problem and concern about that problem, which has prompted willingness in the community to address the issues," she said

"It would be a lot harder if there wasn't the willingness. I was (in the Clarence Valley) last week and had a fantastic reception. Everyone wanted to try and move this thing forward, which is really great."

Northern NSW Local Health District director of Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol, Richard Buss, said the community had been deeply affected by recent tragic losses, with a number of agencies across the Clarence Valley coming together to discuss the complex issue and consider what could be done to avoid these tragedies.

Arthur Lysaught and Janita Cooper talk at a meeting at the Grafton District Services Club held to discuss what can be done about mental health issues in the Clarence Valley.
Arthur Lysaught and Janita Cooper talk at a meeting at the Grafton District Services Club held to discuss what can be done about mental health issues in the Clarence Valley. Adam Hourigan

Dr Buss said a forum of local agencies held last week produced some emerging themes; that there were many groups which were not traditionally aligned with health promotion activities but would have a role to play in an all-of-community strategy, and that evidence based, preventative strategies have been shown to have significant positive impact of social connectedness in rural and regional communities.

"Certainly there are other communities which have experienced this sort of thing and a number of others which have done things to address mental health and some of contributing factors," Ms Considine said.

"It works best when those actions are co-ordinated and evidence-based.

"In general we know factors such as stigma about mental illness and lack of awareness of the problems and the services that can provide support and ensuring services work together, can contribute. Social and geographic isolation contributes too so they're some of the things we might be looking at.

"It's not 'one size fits all' for any town but there is some evidence about effectiveness - ultimately the community is going to work out what's best for them."

>> OUR SAY: It's time to get involved in mental health

Ms Considine will be available to talk to members of the community at the following times:

  • Today, 19th April: Treelands Drive Community and Function Centre from 3.30-5.30pm;
  • Wednesday, 20th April: Grafton Community and Function Centre from 4.30-5.30pm;
  • Thursday, 21st April: Maclean-Lower Clarence Services Club from 4.30-5.30pm.

"We're trying to gather as many people in that time as absolutely possible," Ms Considine said.

"There's a need for action now and we want to build on the momentum that's occuring."

>> How to identify signs of depression

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