IT’S important to talk about mental health matters. We should be checking in with ourselves, and our loved ones, on a continual basis. Today is RUOK Day but should be applied everyday, when trying to tackle the challenges presented by poor mental health in rural, regional and remote areas. If you haven’t already I’d really urge you to have a look at their advice on what you can do to help yourself, and others. The CWA of NSW has long recognised the importance of elevating the issue of mental health so more resources can be funnelled into this area. It’s not just about governments providing more money though. It’s also about increasing awareness and breaking down the stigma that we see so often attached to people that share their mental health concerns. We have, and will continue to, lobby for an overall increase to the mental health budget for direct treatment facilities within the health portfolio.
We want to see an additional amount, on top of that, dedicated to research and we would love to see increased funding for early intervention and the training of more health workers. It is critical we continue to fight for the ongoing and increased provision of specialist services in mental health in regional health centres; as well as improving the accessibility of general services overall. There have been huge inroads made on these matters, but we still hear unacceptable stories of people seeking treatment only to be told they need to wait or they need to drive hundreds of kilometres to access it.
We, as an organisation also need to take ownership in what we can do to improve mental wellbeing. We are partnering with organisations like the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program to deliver positive mental health messages at our large events such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show. We also partner with them on the delivery of a community support skills training program. I have been told by many attendees who have gone to these skill support sessions that, despite being busy, taking time out go to a session such as this has been one of the best things they have ever done.
Leaving the formality aside, the day-to-day activities and support the CWA provides its members and communities is invaluable. We are perfectly placed to make a real difference in peoples lives; even through the smallest of actions. The benefit of the feeling of social connection cannot be overstated. It was nice to see what we already know about the importance of social connection backed up in a recent study. Amazingly, the study (published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry) found by being social you are actually improving your future mental health. Astoundingly, a different study also found that not being socially connected could lead to risk of early death . . . even earlier than for those who drank and smoked!
Let’s keep talking about these issues and let’s keep talking with each other.
- Annette Turner, NSW CWA state president