Community Mental Health Australia Initiative Launched in George Town

Community Mental Health Australia Initiative Launched in George Town
Community Mental Health Australia Initiative Launched in George Town
ACDC Project People Connectors James Iniwounu & Lucinda Fleming. (PHOTO: courtesy of Sonja Ambrose)

A new project is being rolled out by Community Mental Health Australia (CMHA) in George Town this month, aimed at connecting community members with mental health services. Funded by the Department of Social Services, the Assisting Communities through Direct Connection (ACDC) Project is a free service that seeks to assist people with mental health and wellbeing facilities via ‘People Connectors’ who will be going door-to-door to deliver information packs and let people know about the services available in their local area.

“People should expect a kind hearted, active listener and someone who may be able to connect them to free services in the local community and even beyond,” George Town People Connectors Lucinda Fleming and James Iniwounu said.

George Town is one of 20 sites around Australia where the ACDC Project is active. The CMHA is working alongside local service provider Wellways to deliver area-specific information packs across April 2022.

“The ACDC Project aims to address a serious problem with mental health services in Australia,” said CMHA CEO, Bill Gye. “Often, people only look for or receive support when they are in crisis. We must be much more proactive connecting and communicating with people about the importance of wellbeing. Prevention and early intervention are far more effective than dealing with people in crisis.”

Active community engagement is an approach that has proven its efficacy many times both here and abroad.

“I have been involved in similar and more intense community service in Nigeria, where Outreach Departments of an NGO were able to help connect some young wayward and drugs and substance abuse persons and rehabilitate them and eventually create an atmosphere where they could learn different kinds of trade and vocation, some became better people after the program and were reunited with their parents,” said Mr Iniwounu.

With approximately 480,000 Australians living with a mental illness and 75% of people living with a mental illness not receiving adequate support, the ACDC Project seeks to collect feedback on service gaps to inform where improvements can be made by local, state, and federal governments.

“Often, we are hearing people access youth services such as headspace and when they turn 25 there is no equivalent and it becomes very hard to find free or Medicare covered treatment in Northern Tasmania. As well as very specific scopes of some organisations making it difficult to for some people to be seen,” Mr Iniwounu and Ms Fleming said.

“People from overseas visiting or moving here also find it difficult to receive funded mental health support due to their residency status and the cost of services if it is not government funded. Also, a diagnosis is often needed to receive financial assistance with treatment. The same goes for carer services for people who may take care of a family member or friend.”

“Service gaps are most evident in youth mental health services (specifically under 7-years-old and young adults over 25-years-old). Alcohol and drug services are limited in George Town. Homeless services like crisis accommodation for people sleeping rough are also difficult to come by.”

The ACDC project hopes that providing information directly to members of the public and engaging in discussions about their specific needs will encourage people to seek mental health assistance as required.  

Community Mental Health Australia Initiative Launched in George Town
ACDC Project People Connectors are hitting the streets to help connect people
with local mental health services. (PHOTO: courtesy of Sonja Ambrose)

The limitations of the mental health system have been felt in Tasmania for some time. The University of Tasmania recently expanded access to its post-graduate programs in both clinical and professional psychology into the North of the state to address the inadequate numbers of psychological professionals working locally. The ACDC Project hopes that the data generated will provide further insight into what more can be done to provide sufficient support to communities. These data will contribute to discussions around community-managed mental health services in Australia, and how mental health support is delivered.

“We hope to advocate for more affordable, accessible mental health services for all. Northern Tasmania definitely need more psychologists. George Town needs more jobs, more activities for young people as well as drug and alcohol services,” Mr Iniwounu and Ms Fleming said. “Affordable and subsidised transportation for all, and there also is a big need for the men’s shed to return, as well as more assistance for VETS.”

For Ms Fleming and Mr Iniwounu, there are immediate benefits that they witness in their roles as People Connectors.

“A lot of positive feedback is rolling in day after day, as we connect people to services. Some do not even know such services could be accessed in the local area. Some have been linked with NDIS, food provision, Centrelink; people are happy and willing to talk to us for an hour or more just to pour out heavy burdens on their hearts.”

 The ACDC Project provides this important information to householders of all educational, cultural, and language backgrounds to promote access to mental health, social and emotional wellbeing support.

For more information visit: www.acdc.org.au or phone 1300 319 015

National Mental Health Resources:

Beyond Blue: visit www.beyondblue.org.au or phone 1800512348

Lifeline: phone 13 11 14

Wellmob: visit www.wellmob.org.au

Tasmanian Mental Health Resources:

Mindset TAS Connect: visit www.baptcare.org.au or phone 1800 290 666

Wellways: visit www.wellways.org or phone 1300 111 400

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