Engagement, Connection, and Trust: Building Healthy and Resilient Communities

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will be held next month over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Ms Elizabeth Little, Chief Executive Officer at Rural Alive & Well Inc. who will present on ‘Engagement, Connection, and Trust: Building Healthy and Resilient Communities’.

Ms Elizabeth Little

Abstract

RAW was developed in 2009 by local farmers when a couple of their mates committed suicide after a severe drought. It started with a half-time ‘bloke’ going around to visit people on their farms in a borrowed ute.

RAW now has a state-wide Outreach service that provides a 24/7 mobile suicide prevention support and counselling service to all rural Tasmania including the islands. RAW also delivers the Healthy and Resilient Communities (HaRC) capacity building program in over thirty rural Tasmanian communities to reduce stigma and build resilience and connectedness.

Research by Flinders University and the ABS shows that on average people living in rural areas experience additional risk factors such as mental illness, substance abuse, chronic pain or illness at higher levels than their urban counterparts. Tasmanian rural areas have a higher saturation of risk factor cohorts than national averages with:
• The oldest and fastest aging population in Australia;
• Poor health outcomes in general;
• A high representation of returned military service personnel;
• 40% of rural Tasmanians using mental health services .

RAW is highly respected in the communities it services and makes a significant contribution to the sustainability and quality of life of rural communities across Tasmania and to individuals who are experiencing mental health and suicide risk issues.

In 2017 RAW, in partnership with the University of Tasmania, undertook evaluations of its two key programs. The research has identified RAW’s key success factors in delivering ‘culturally safe’ practice in rural communities and engaging rural communities in collaborative efforts to reduce suicide. Our service model builds social capital that allows community members to pursue important personal goals, enjoy fulfilling relationships, and take part in their community.

RAW has recently received philanthropic funding to assist rural communities on the Australian mainland to establish similar programs.

Key Learnings:
1. Improved understanding of community engagement.
2. Using social connection as an intervention for suicide risk reduction.
3. Culturally safe practice in rural communities.

Biography

Liz Little studied social work at the University of Sydney. Her first job was in in-patient mental health where she worked with young people with AOD issues. Her second job was as one of Australia’s first street-based youth workers in Griffith NSW. She later worked as an academic, a senior public servant, and as Tasmania’s inaugural Sex Discrimination Commissioner. In 2009 on her retirement from the public service she moved to the NGO sector as the CEO of the Sexual Assault Support Services. She commenced as the CEO of Rural Alive and Well (RAW) in July 2016.

For more information on the upcoming 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium please visit anzmh.asn.au/rrmh