BLOG POST 3:
CROSS-SECTOR APPROACHES TO MENTAL HEALTH
Key Areas For Development in a Community Approach to
So you may be sitting reading this, thinking, I know this is what we need to do but where do I start? Rest assured I am going to go through each step of the process in detail so that you can start making a real difference to mental health in your community, whether that is in a rural or urban setting. You might not even be the person who is going to action this approach, but you may feel passionate about it happening and would like to share this with someone you know.
So what areas need to be considered when creating a community or cross-sector approach to mental health? Ie. What are you going to look to improve? Where do you start?
- Effective Development of a Team
I cannot emphasise this step enough. It seems like we are always creating new teams or committees but the importance of an effective team cannot be overlooked. This is critical in order to ensure sustainability, maximise effectiveness and avoid burnout for individuals. Life is so busy these days it seems and time is precious so when individuals put their hand up to join this team we want to ensure their time is valued, their opinions are heard and a sense of satisfaction and belonging are emphasised. I will go into more depth about how to achieve this in my next blog post.
- Use of an Implementation Ladder
I am a firm believer that this is essential when implementing any form of change. It is basically an overview of all of the steps involved in achieving change. It can be broken down into sections such as the ones listed below but gives the team and Chairperson clear outcomes that need to be actioned. This helps to ensure momentum, but also allows accountability for the team, a sense of direction and a sense of achievement.
- Effective data collection
This is an important first step in creating a community approach to mental health. We often have firm beliefs about what we believe is going on, but it is important to develop a true understanding of localised needs based on data rather than assumptions. There are many creative ways that this can be done to ensure maximum participation.
- Mental Health Understanding, Awareness & Education
In order to make improvements to mental health including preventative approaches and support pathways, we need to ensure that there is a shared understanding of mental health and all that it encompasses. This is a great starting place in looking at de-stigmatising mental health and starts to encourage conversations.
- Welcoming and Positive Community
This is a great place for a team to start and encourages some early wins and good visibility across the local region. Current practices can be considered and ideas developed to develop a more welcoming and positive community whether in rural or urban localities.
- Gaps in Support Pathways & Services
An important step in improving local mental health services and delivery is to do a stocktake of what is currently available and how easily it can be accessed. Asking for help is a big step for many people when seeking support for mental health issues, so when they do finally take this leap it is important to ensure that the resources are easy to access and are readily available. This is a great space for the action team to make a real difference to the local region.
- Developing a Sense of Belonging & Connection
This is a critical element of positive mental health and has, in many areas been lost, as life has become busier, more family members are often working, etc. A great starting point for the Action Team can be planning local events that bring people together. A sense of belonging can look very different for everyone, so it is important to consider varied ways to achieve this.
- Effective communication and clear processes between sectors & agencies
Agencies or sectors, such as Education, often have very effective communication methods within their own department. A community action team can play a key role in developing planned methods for communication across the sectors. It is important to document these methods in order to monitor their effectiveness and make improvements as needed. This can also be useful when looking at having a consistent message being delivered across businesses and community groups using Mental Health campaigns etc.
- Specific Action Plans & Outcomes For Target Groups within the Region
This is where a Community Wellbeing Plan can be particularly useful. Based on data collection, the team may identify specific target groups that need outcomes and actions to improve current mental health pathways or support eg. indigenous population, single mothers, farming community, LGBTIQ community, youth 12-25, etc. By having a targeted approach, you can often have more success when applying for grants and can look at comparative data throughout the 2-3 year period in order to determine what methods were most successful for future planning.
It is worthwhile to consider the current practices and level of inclusivity in the local community or region. It may be a matter or adopting simple and consistent strategies across local businesses or sporting groups to encourage more inclusive practices. This is particularly effective when done as a planned approach rather than incidentally.
- Localised Directory or Support Resources
It is well worth considering how to create a localised directory/website/resource that provides the local community with an up-to-date reference that identifies support pathways, planned events and opportunities for belonging and connection. This needs to be done effectively to ensure that it is kept updated and can be accessed effectively by a wide range of individuals.
12. Development of a Community Wellbeing Plan
An essential element of developing a cross-sector approach to mental health is to develop a community wellbeing plan. If done well, this is an excellent opportunity to get buy-in from local govt or the local shire and opens up opportunities for funding and grants. This helps to ensure a planned approach and sustainability for the important work being done.
Over the next few months, I will be writing an individual blog on each of the above areas in a step-by-step approach so that you can make this change happen effectively in your own local setting.
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