by Johnathon Harms
As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.
Women in rural and regional Australia will be only too familiar with the limited access to mental health support services. These problems are all the same, only worse, outside the metropolitan areas, where access, isolation and stigma can be heightened. All too often, the families and carers are the only ones willing to take responsibility for ensuring that a person experiencing mental illness, or a significant psycho-social disability of some kind, receives the care they require.
Our Health system is a great acute system, well-tailored for treating short acute illnesses, but not well designed for providing long-term support for mental health conditions or long terms psycho-social disability.
All too often such caring is left up to the female relatives to provide, placing demands on a person or a family who struggle to ensure their loved one is not deprived of a vital service.
The need to get better at providing support for disabilities and chronic health conditions at the ‘primary care’ level (that is care in your home through your GP) has caused a number of important changes to our system recently, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the expansion of Primary Health Networks (PHN’S).
The NDIS provides non-clinical disability support for people with permanent disabilities to live in the community and systematically fills a gap partially filled by a hodge-podge of state and commonwealth schemes up till now.
The Commonwealth government has also asked PHN to look at developing service models like the ‘healthcare home’ to improve the range and quality of care available to help avoid deteriorating health and expensive hospital admissions. Many people experiencing mental ill health would benefit from similar regular support in the community.
While the PHN can commission new clinical mental health services, most of the non-clinical supports required for people to live in the community will exclude those with a recent diagnosis whose condition is not considered ‘permanent’.
Many receiving the NDIS funding in country areas are finding it hard to locate the appropriate support services to buy with the money in their NDIS ‘package’. This service shortage is a great opportunity for ‘consumer’ and ‘carer’ peer workers to register on sites that allow NDIS participants to hire them directly instead of going through service organisations.
Peer workers are people who use their lived experience of caring or recovery to help support other consumers or carer ‘peers’.
In this instance, no ‘peer’ training is needed, just a police check and First Aid certificate.
Peer workers of all ages can work directly with the participants which is great outcome for both the workers and the NDIS participant.
Mental Health Carers NSW Inc is a non-government organisation providing advocacy and support for families, relatives and friends of people who experience mental illness, living in NSW.
Information & support line:
1300 554 660 (free call)
t: 02 9332 0700 (Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm)