Introducing Renee Knapp
We welcome our newest advocate!
Renee is an independent consultant working to implement effective approaches to mental health across communities and schools. She has over 20 years experience in Education and is the Chair and co-founder of a Community Based Mental Health Action Team. She's passionate about utilising a community approach to mental health by working collaboratively across government and private sectors to make real change happen for both our youth and the wider community. She has worked with the WA Mental Health Commission to write a Community Wellbeing Plan that is being shared with communities in the area as a model of success.
Renee will be speaking at our upcoming 22nd International Mental Health Conference at RACV Royal Pines Resort on 26-28 July 2021 and will be at our Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium as well as our Child & Adolescent Mental Health Conference.
You can find her here: Think Effective Consultancy
Read on to find out more about Renee, her community and cross sector approach to mental health as well as her consultancy business.
Hi Renee, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readership?
I am an independent Consultant (Think Effective Consultancy) with a passion for mental health and wellbeing strategies and how to implement them effectively across rural and urban communities. I have a background in Education and am the co-founder and chair of a Community Mental Health Action Team. For too long, education, health, law enforcement, community groups and businesses have worked in isolation to address mental health issues.
I help communities and individuals to achieve improved mental health outcomes by facilitating the development of mental health action teams and community wellbeing plans without the pain of having to figure out the framework for success from scratch.
I use a tested and successful framework to improve mental health outcomes by
• Assisting in the formation of action teams & creating effective communication and processes
• Identifying gaps in support pathways
• Developing mental health awareness and education across the sectors, community groups and businesses
• Developing a sense of belonging and connection
• Identifying target groups needing support
• Linking govt sectors, community and sporting groups and businesses to create localised solutions
• Creating action plans for improved mental health from the ground up
• Facilitating the development of community wellbeing plans
• Providing support resources to individuals looking to implement strategies in the local region
in order to make a real difference in the space of mental health
You’re very much about advocating for a community and cross sector approach to mental health. What exactly do you mean by that and what could we learn from it?
I am often asked why we should we consider looking at improvement in mental health across society rather than just within our individual sectors or businesses.
As an educator I often engaged in strategies including prevention, support, intervention, etc in order to improve student mental health. However, so much of what affected a child’s mental health existed beyond the school walls.
I felt passionately that by working together we could achieve greater outcomes not only for our youth but all members of our communities. As a result I co-founded a Community approach to mental health.
We need to start working together to start addressing ongoing problems in order to find effective solutions. Within workplaces, local groups, businesses we all address mental health in some way whether it be through a preventative role or a supportive role or in intervention role. It makes sense that we should work collaboratively in order to create effective solutions to the ongoing issues of suicide, lack of support services, etc. The challenge is to create an effective process and framework to guide the collaboration so that it becomes a planned approach rather than an incidental collaboration and so that it can be adopted across any setting and localised for greater effect. I have created a framework that allows communities to adopt this approach. I help people get these essential processes set up to ensure that change is sustainable and can evolve as localised needs change.
Some specific key benefits for adopting a cross-sector approach to mental health include:
- Consideration of all areas essential to mental health improvement
This includes aspects such as Awareness, Education, Gaps in Support Pathways, Current services available in the local area, opportunities for connection and belonging
- The opportunity to develop a connected community and sense of belonging
This is a key component for positive mental health and is an essential element that everyone needs. It is important to recognise that this does not look the same for everyone and can come in many different shapes and forms.
- The opportunity to identify and support target groups within the local area (even in an urban setting)
This is a key area for making change happen but it is important to collect real data about what is going on within the community rather than assuming that you already know
- The opportunity to work together to source funding to support key initiatives
Funding is often a great deal more successful when associations work together and have created plans supported by localised groups that outline goals, targets and initiatives.
- Adopting a shared approach to problem solving and prevention
It is not until we put our heads together that we realise how much opportunity exists for us to support one another in similar goals.
- Creating intergenerational opportunities
Creating a community approach allows us to consider the benefits of our younger and older age groups working together. We can build opportunities for varying age groups to share their wisdom in a 2-way street.
- Community approaches to mental health provide the perfect opportunity to feed into Strategic Shire and Local Govt Planning
This is a critical benefit that can help lead to significant long term change if supported and provides benefits for all involved.
Often we discover that so many individuals are doing amazing work within their own association but are not getting any traction. By working together we are able to use the strengths of each association in order to strengthen our approaches. We are able to take into consideration the ongoing issue of stress and overwork that many people are facing and create a process that is beneficial to all sectors including Education, Health, Law Enforcement, Businesses, Shires and local sporting and community groups.
In order to do this we need a system or process that brings people together from different organisations that:
- Is easy to follow
- Has clear processes for communication between organisations
- Has a planned step-by-step approach that is appropriate for the localised environment
- Has achievable outcomes and goals to give the team and community a sense of achievement and value in what they are doing
- Is sustainable
- Can be adapted to any setting
My work involves helping people create this community approach to mental health in their setting and providing resources to support the implementation of this process effectively.
Have you noticed a big difference in approaches to mental health and wellbeing in the education sector versus the private sector?
I honestly think (as I have mentioned above) that most people involved in mental health roles or advocacy have similar beliefs around wanting to help people and get the support to where it needs to be and ensure that we start changing the statistics and start saving lives. I think it is not about comparing these sectors but rather, working together to achieve success in a shared vision.
You’ve created your own independent consultancy business – Think Effective – which works to assist others to implement change in mental health and wellbeing. Tell us more!
As mentioned I am an independent consultant and CEO of Think Effective Consultancy. I am a passionate advocate for implementing community and cross sector approaches to mental health. I also specialise in implementing effective behavioural strategies and mental health & wellbeing approaches in schools and communities.
I have created a framework and process for implementing community approaches to mental health based on my success in implementing this approach in my own community.
I believe that there are an abundance of people keen and passionate to make change happen, but are often unsure as to where to start or what to do in order to make effective and sustainable change happen.
Through my Consultancy business, I work with individuals, teams or organisations to implement this successful approach in the following ways:
• Speaking At Events about the key benefits and strategies involved when implementing this community approach
• Consulting in person or online to help people develop this approach in their setting or any aspect of the approach needed
• Running workshops/PD for teams in order to facilitate a specific aspect of mental health improvement or in order to facilitate the initial development of the team
• Facilitating the development of a Community Wellbeing Plan or Shared Mental Health Action Plan
• Providing resources to allow individuals to develop this approach independently
Head to my website, blog or work with me page to access free resources and learn more about how to work with me.
Any initiatives that you can share with us which would interest our readers?
There are so many amazing resources and programmes that can be accessed as part of a community approach to improving mental health outcomes. Some of my favourites are:
• Tomorrow Man & Tomorrow Woman
- They create training grounds to build emotional muscle and spaces free of judgement, to start conversations about the men of tomorrow. From secondary schools, TAFE, universities, amateur and professional sporting clubs, male dominated workplaces to whole communities.
- Tomorrow Woman aspires to reignite girls and women around Australia with their innate voice, empowering them to confidently express their needs and opinions in the moments that matter.
• GoZen website – Cognitive behaviour therapy for kids. Really effective programme delivered in a very effective approach
• Smiling Mind Mindfulness programme & Reach Out Website - excellent resources
• Dear Anxiety podcast –Dear Anxiety is a show for humans of all ages about the difficult emotions we all struggle with. They share research-based solutions for the greater mental wellness of your whole family. You’ll learn tools for improved mindfulness, communication, self-awareness. Worry, anger, stress, perfectionism, body image: if you feel it, they want to talk about it.
• Book: 21 Things You Forgot About Being A Kid – Rick Stevenson (A great read helping to remind us what it felt like to be a kid and how we can learn from our past in order to move forward)
I try to add ideas on my social media platforms once a month as I discover podcasts, books, interviews and resources that I think may be useful for others in order to improve mental health outcomes.
What does becoming an ambassador mean to you?
I am so very excited to become an ambassador for ANZMHA. I think the association plays such an important role in bringing people together to network and have important conversations about mental health and all that it encompasses. I have been lucky enough to present at a variety of ANZMHA conferences on offer including the 2020 Rural & Regional Mental Health Symposium and I will be presenting at the upcoming International Mental Health Conference in the Gold Coast in July. These conferences are such a unique opportunity to come together with like-minded people in order to have critical discussions, to learn from all that is on offer from passionate advocates in the mental health space and to get inspired in order to implement change in your own setting. I am so thrilled to be able to spread the word about the great work the association is doing and about the incredible conferences on offer. Together we can start changing the statistics and start saving lives.