Natural disasters, pandemics, housing shortages and the increased cost of living are pushing people to the brink, with more people than ever seeking mental health support.
Open Minds Chief Executive Officer Kate Johnson said the overwhelming need for real alternatives to primary health care for mental health support meant that innovative models like Head to Health were essential to help meet demand.
“There are unprecedented levels of people in need of mental health supports and even though the Government has responded with historical increases to funding, we still do not have enough services available for people in our communities in need,” she said.
“Open Minds’ purpose is to help people with mental illness and psychosocial disability live more positive and fulfilling lives, and to do this we need to look for opportunities where we can provide better access to quality mental health services in these communities.”
Open Minds is the lead agency for the Head to Health service in Lismore, commissioned by the Healthy North Coast PHN and have recently been selected as the lead agency for the first ever Southeast Queensland centres in Ipswich and Kingaroy, commissioned by the Darling Downs West Moreton PHN. Both services will open in the next six months.
“These services are providing people an alternative to going to their GP or hospital and with Head to Health centres people can walk in the door without a referral and at no cost,” Kate said. “This can be life changing as it’s giving people better access to support in service environments that are designed to be trauma informed and recovery focused.”
Kate said the Head to Health service in Lismore continued to support a township in repair.
“The Lismore community is still in crisis; they came out of a natural disaster and the majority of residents were impacted or lost their homes,” Kate said. “Recovery takes a long time and over time this trauma can manifest in a variety of ways.
“Initially most of our clients were referred to us from the hospital, but as word spread people started coming straight to us for help. This means we are taking pressure off the local hospital and supporting people in whatever way we can.”
Kate encouraged anyone struggling with their mental health to take the first step and ask for help.
“We recognise that there is so much need in our communities on the back of everything that has been happening in our community such as the housing shortage, economic crisis, natural disasters and pandemics,” she said.
‘”My hope is that people reach out for support, which is often the hardest step people take. And that when you do ask for help, you are made to feel welcome, you are not judged and that you receive the support you need to get well and have a more positive life.
“Most of us have been touched by mental ill health whether it’s through our work, as a carer or personally.
“Through my own lived experience as a carer, I am driven even more in my work because I truly understand how hard it can be and that people just need to be listened to, understood, and helped.”
During this Mental Health Awareness month, Kate encourages people to talk about mental health.
“We all have mental health, and we all go through times when we are okay and times when we aren’t doing okay. The more we talk about it and build awareness, the more we will reduce the fear and stigma associated with mental illness.”