Supporting the mental health of the entire community

SUPPORT: Senior clinician Catriona Campbell (left), manager Nicholas Place and social worker Rochelle Morrison are part of the SWH Mental Health Services Primary Mental Health Team. Photo: Supplied
SUPPORT: Senior clinician Catriona Campbell (left), manager Nicholas Place and social worker Rochelle Morrison are part of the SWH Mental Health Services Primary Mental Health Team. Photo: Supplied

Much has been said about the psychological impact of COVID-19, and for many, the impact of forced redundancies, 'home schooling', isolation from family and friends, cancellation of important events, and more, has been significant.

Residents of South West Victoria can relate to these experiences, experiences frequently highlighted in national news bulletins and accompanied by the phrase "we live in unprecedented times."

Responding to such experiences have challenged some people in ways they've not been challenged before.

Some people may have felt unable to cope, and that their mental health has been impacted.There are various support services available.

Beyondblue and Lifeline are readily recognisable supports.

Try to keep a routine, with a balance of work, fun, exercise, rest and relaxation.

Steadily operating in the background, and acting as the backbone to mental health care, is the primary care sector, featuring General Practice in particular.

First and foremost, people experiencing mental health concerns attend their General Practitioner (GP) to discuss and seek help for their concerns. GPs can utilise Medicare items, and develop Mental Health Care Plans, to direct patients to appropriate services. And where necessary, GPs can engage specialist mental health services to support a patient's assessment and treatment.

South West Healthcare's Mental Health Services performs this specialist function across South West Victoria, with offices located in Camperdown, Hamilton, Portland and Warrnambool.

Its services range from the Primary Mental Health Team (PMHT) with mental health clinicians co-located within many medical clinics; perinatal support services; age specific mental health teams - the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), Adult Mental Health Services, and the Aged Persons Mental Health Service (APMHS) - and residential support services.

If a referral to one of these teams is indicated, GPs can help connect patients with the right team.

In their respective roles, PMHT clinicians Catriona Campbell, Nicholas Place and Rochelle Morrison reflect on encouragement they've offered to patients and consumers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that remain relevant at any time:

  1. Try to keep a routine, with a balance of work, fun, exercise, rest and relaxation
  2. Exercise when you can
  3. Eat healthily, and limit alcohol use
  4. Get creative in finding pleasurable activities
  5. Stay connected with family, friends and community
  6. Focus on what is in your control
  7. Mindfulness. Try an online program to build some skills in refocusing from worries to being 'present' and in the moment

Living in COVID-19 times may have been (or still could be) stressful for many of us, but equally we have appreciated the importance of our mental health.

And to this end, mental health is everyone's business.

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