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February 2011



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"Symphony of Colours" Redland, Qld

FROM online men’s sheds and iPads to data mining for diagnosis, the national depression initiative beyondblue has seen it all since it was established a little more than 10 years ago.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” recalls beyondblue’s chairman, former Victorian premier and Hawthorn Football Club president Jeff Kennett. “I never expected it to be a period of enlightenment for me, but it’s certainly been that.”

For Kennett, that means enlightenment about human nature above all: “There have been some sad stories, there have also been a lot of good stories.”

The initiative originally was envisioned as a five-year project, but Kennett believes that what kept it going is a willingness to embrace new forms of communication, such as the Shed Online, an electronic version of the men’s shed movement.

As reported in Weekend Health in August 2009, men’s sheds are places where men can get together to discuss physical and mental health issues. There are now about 400 nationwide.

According to Kennett, the success of the sheds led to the Shed Online project. It’s like a Facebook site designed exclusively for men. Updated continually, it allows men to talk to each other, share experiences, enjoy companionship and obtain information on topics such as gardening and carpentry.

Kennett admits depression affects men and women equally, but believes men find it harder to talk about. “Men, particularly those in rural Australia, are born to be tougher than John Wayne,” he says. “They don’t worry about their health or seek help about it as much as women.”

The Shed Online is an important gateway for men too shy to speak about health issues in a face-to-face environment for those geographically isolated.

“You might find in time that men on the oil rigs or working in the mines will take a great interest in it,” Kennett says. “You’ll find men on construction sites who can get on through their iPad or iPhone, as well as people who are isolated by circumstance in metropolitan areas.”

Gordon Gregory, executive director of the National Rural Health Alliance, thinks both types of men’s sheds are a good idea, especially in regional areas: “Mental health services are distributed disproportionately in city areas and large towns”.

While evidence suggests rates of mental illness, including depression and anxiety, may not be higher in rural areas, Gregory claims the effect is more severe, partly due to the lack of specialist professionals and facilities.

He says there are different means of communication in rural areas. “People don’t read billboards, they don’t watch the same amount of television in the same way, and they meet in different sorts of places,” he explains.

When combating depression in country towns, it should be recognised that cases are not only different from the cities, but also from one another, he says.

While depression has geographical as well as individual differences, some causes clearly cut across urban-rural and demographic boundaries, however. A case in point is the recent flood damage in Queensland and NSW.

Chris Wagner is a spokesman for Lifeline, the crisis support group. He says the group’s telephone hotline has seen a 50 per cent increase in calls since the start of the flood crisis, including a 68 per cent increase in calls from heavily flood-affected areas such as Brisbane, Ipswich and Bundaberg. “It’s pretty normal for people to feel a range of emotions in connection with natural disasters,” Wagner says, “and that’s why we would always encourage people to jump on the phone and give us a call.”

Beyondblue will also be heavily involved in the aftermath of the floods. “We need to have programs in place to help people through the reconstruction period,” Kennett says.

Read in Full: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/web-of-services-helps-battle-the-blues-depression/story-e6frg8y6-1225991969173

"Let There Be Light" Manly, Brisbane, Qld

[Australia]  A Federal Case For Substantial Change: Mental Health Reform

THERE’S no doubt 2010 was a big year in mental health, from beginning to end. In January, psychiatrist Patrick McGorry was appointed Australian of the Year, while December brought the emotional trauma of the disastrous floods in Queensland.

On the upside, opposite ends of the political spectrum, from the Greens to the conservatives, committed to big increases in spending on youth-friendly, early intervention services.

Reflecting the view of more than a third of Australians who rated mental health as one of their key concerns — coming just after the economy and climate change — Julia Gillard made mental health a second-term priority. She also appointed Mark Butler as the first ever federal Minister for Mental Health.

On the downside, the Rudd government neglected the comprehensive work of the Hospital and Health Reform Commission and allocated only 2 per cent of the $7.4 billion health reform monies to mental health. This followed the pattern of its other major infrastructure investments, worth more than $3bn, in acute hospitals and other traditional winners such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and infection. They too were underfunded.

The last time we saw genuine national leadership was in 2006 when John Howard and the then NSW premier Morris Iemma initiated a five-year national mental health plan under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments. But while the commonwealth made substantive new investments, there was little co-ordination with the states, and most of the money reinforced outmoded styles of practice.

Although key targets such as reduction in suicide, promotion of early intervention, increased access to timely care and prevention of re-hospitalisation were set, little real progress has been made.

So, in 2011 the question must be asked: Are we headed for real reform or is this just another false dawn? By July, we’ll be able to apply five key tests to answer the question. First, have all Australian governments agreed to a new national mechanism for reform? There are two options: another five-year COAG-led mental health plan; or, transfer of the responsibility for funding all community-based mental health services from the states to the commonwealth.

The transfer of funding responsibility to the commonwealth has already been resisted by the states and federal funders. In contrast, a five-year renewal of the COAG-led National Mental Health Plan, led by a new prime minister and new premiers, has real appeal. Mental health reform struggles when it relies on leadership by health ministers.

There’s a strong need to tie in treasuries — federal, state and territory –as well as employment, education, social services, legal and human rights, housing and accommodation into any serious reform process.

Read in Full: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/a-federal-case-for-substantial-change-mental-health-reform/story-e6frg8y6-1225991975684

One Response to “Australia: Web of Services Helps Battle The Blues: Depression/Mental Health Reform”

  1. shed plans Says:

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