By SA Mental Health Commissioner Chris Burns CSC
In all our undertakings, the SA Mental Health Commission listens to and values the perspectives of South Australians with lived experience of mental health challenges.
As we led the development of the State’s first mental health strategic plan, South Australians living in rural and remote areas generously shared with us their views, stories and concerns. This gave us a unique insight of the issues and inequities they face due to the tyrannies distance and isolation.
Time and again we experienced examples of how, in the face of limited services, country people came together as a community and supported each other. They found local solutions which worked for them – solutions which were outside the traditional clinical models of care.
Mentally Fit EP brought their Eyre Peninsula community together when it was rocked by suicides and put remarkable safety nets in place. Mount Gambier library builds social connectedness in such a vibrant way that young mums, kids and older people regularly visit and are having a great time.
These communities remind us that success in building good mental health and wellbeing depends upon addressing the root causes rather than waiting for the crisis to happen.
Mental health and wellbeing is not solely a clinical issue. Mental ill-health begins well before someone reaches a medical service or hospital.
Rural and remote communities are so powerful with their intimate knowledge of their communities and their capacity to provide early support and build social connectedness, both important protective factors in countering mental health challenges.
Good mental health and wellbeing as well as health care should not be dependent on your postcode, how much you earn and how determined you are to get access to services.
Advice, supports and services must be matched to a community’s needs to stop mental distress becoming so severe, they seek help in emergency departments.
And who knows this better than a local?
SA Mental Health Commissioner Chris Burns CSC is a keynote speaker at the 2019 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium.
Hear him present on suicide and self-harm prevention with his presentation Let’s Not Wait for the ‘Mind Attack’ – register today.