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Why community-based services are vital for building mental health resilience

A report from seven community mental health service providers – Flourish Australia, Mind Australia, Neami National, One Door Mental Health, Open Minds, Stride and Wellways Australia – explored COVID-19’s impact on people living with severe and enduring mental health issues.

Drawing on a nation-wide survey of 738 people using services, it found 55 per cent of respondents have experienced deteriorating mental health since the pandemic began.

Almost a third of respondents said they had been unable to access a support group during the crisis, with 74 per cent reporting this was due to the service not being available.

Gill Callister, the CEO of Mind Australia, also noted that around 40 per cent of people reported that their previous experience managing their own mental health helped them cope through the pandemic.

She said the ability to manage adversity should be encouraged and celebrated.

“The survey results indicate a strong connection between resilience in adversity for people who access psychosocial support services. This is again evidence of the value of psychosocial support,” Callister said.

“However, we know that not everyone who would benefit from psychosocial support is able to access it.”

Callister told Pro Bono News that the main thing that jumped out at her from the research was how important community-based services were in helping people manage their mental health and stay well.

“Over half the people that said that their mental health had deteriorated during the pandemic said the services they most needed during that time to stay well were community-based services,” she said.

“And it really reinforced for me how important these services are to not only help people stay well, but also to give people strategies to manage their own mental health in a way so they can live the life they want to live.”

Callister said community-based services were critical in helping people deal with issues early on, and could link people to virtual support groups and other services that help build their resilience and capability to deal with problems.

“And while we’ve had a lot of conversations about people presenting at emergency departments during COVID and the need for mental health hubs… the thing that will help people build their longer-term wellbeing are those non-intrusive services in the community,” she said.

The final report from the Victorian mental health royal commission recommended increasing community-based supports throughout the state.

The Productivity Commission’s Mental Health Inquiry report also noted there were more than 150,000 people who needed psychosocial support but could not access it.

Callister said she’d like to see a recognition that community-based services were a really economical and feasible way to improve access to mental health support.

“Both these major landmarks reports really underscored the need for community-based services [and we cannot] solely rely on the pure health system such as hospitals and psychiatric admissions,” she said.

“What we need is far more economical and more plentiful community-based services that people can access very early on when they’re feeling troubled or having their mental health deteriorate.”


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