Preparing for environmental adversity in rural Australia: Aligning the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) with state and national policy

The Drought Mental Health Assistance Package (DMHAP) in NSW was implemented (in 2007) as a response to the observed effects of the ongoing drought on the mental health and wellbeing of rural communities. By early 2010 it was decided to broaden the scope of DMHAP and rename the program to better reflect the range of elements contributing to rural adversity.

The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) has moved beyond considering drought alone as an environmental stressor, and the aim has broadened to reflect a more comprehensive approach to capacity building. The aim of RAMHP reflects current and emerging policy thinking across a number of commonwealth and state areas of responsibility. For example, the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (NSDR) calls for the underlying principles of emergency management in Australia to be built on the concept of “prevention, preparedness, response and recovery”.

The NSDR also advocates for action-based resilience planning at local and statewide levels, to strengthen local capacity and capability. A focus on individual and community resilience to prevent and recover from mental illness is also a recurring theme in both state and national mental health policy, with an emphasis on building community capacity as an integral part of strategic health and mental health frameworks.

To assist in future planning, implementation and evaluation of RAMHP, a program logic representation was developed based on clearly articulated theoretical constructs and relevant frameworks for action. The theoretical framework allows RAMHP to contribute to the knowledge base of disaster resilience and community capacity building for better mental health, with reference to both state and national policy. Four broad goals of activity that emerge from the theoretical frame will form the “narrative” for the program as it establishes itself as a long-term contributor to community resilience in rural NSW. The relevance of the program goals in the context of state and national policy will be discussed.

Prof Prasuna Reddy, Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health
Co- Author: A/Prof Virginia Lewis, Australian Institute for Primary Care and Ageing
Prof Reddy will present at the:

4th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium to be held on the 19 – 21 November 2012, Adelaide, South Australia.
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