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October 31, 2023

Why I Feel Passionate About Community Approaches to Mental Health?

About 6 or 7 years ago, I began to realise the significant importance of mental health education in Schools.  As someone with lived experience with Depression and Anxiety in both myself and a family member close to me, I knew the importance of taking care of our own mental health.  Through my own journey I discovered:

  •  the significant role that negative talk plays in one’s own mental health
  • the 13 distorted ways of thinking that are so relevant for many people
  • the importance of a sense of belonging and connection and how critical it is for everyone (even though it can look quite different for each person)
  • the lack of a shared understanding of mental health and mental health difficulties across communities and within schools
  • the terrifying statistics that are associated with mental health issues in society
  • how challenging it can be to seek help when even I, as a very confident, outgoing and happy person, had difficulties
  • the importance of a shared approach to mental health

I desperately wanted to see change happen at a School level, but our small staff was already overwhelmed with committees and curriculum commitments so the potential to ask them to form another action team was just not an option.  I had spent a lot of time researching school based approaches to mental health such as Kids Matters & Mind Matters in Australia and approached them about the idea of creating a team with community members with the School (myself) sitting in the Chair role.  This was met with keen enthusiasm and led me to setting up my first Community Mental Health Action Team (or as we like to call it “CoMHAT”).

Initially our team consisted of myself in the Chair role, our local doctor, our local Community Resource Centre manager and a local business representative/parent.  All of these individuals had a shared interest in mental health and were keen to see change happen both within the Education system but also out in the community. 

For me this was an opportunity to see beyond the school walls and make a real difference to our students.  So much of what was going on for the students and their mental health was happening outside of school.  This included their home life, sporting and social groups, social media and so forth. 

I set this team up to start looking at the big picture and to start seeing what we could do to improve awareness, education, support pathways and systems that were currently in place.  I had never in my Education career engaged with people in other sectors regarding improvements for our system but I soon came to realise that this was a game changer and could make all the difference to mental health approaches both within rural communities, but also in urban settings.

Over the next series of blog posts I will be writing about the steps I took to develop this team and how it has evolved.  I will explore:

  1. Why to adopt a cross sector or community approach
  2. Key areas to consider improving and developing
  3. Useful strategies for setting up an effective team
  4. Key roles for inclusion on the committee
  5. Collecting baseline data that is useful
  6. Creating early wins for the team
  7. How to Identify local protective and risk factors
  8. Creating opportunities for social connection and belonging
  9. Organising events to raise awareness and much needed funds
  10. Ideas for sourcing funding
  11. Considering the need for training and education
  12. Developing a Community Wellbeing Plan in consultation with the local region
  13. Creating a paid position to implement change
  14. The need for systemic change to approaches to mental health

If you would like to keep up to date with blog posts as they are released, please subscribe to my free newsletter with the link below and you will receive a detailed checklist with all of the steps involved in setting up a Community Mental Health Action Team and a BONUS video that outlines the benefits and development of a cross sector approach to mental health.

NEXT BLOG TOPIC

In my next blog post I will explore the key benefits of adopting a cross sector or community approach to mental health. 

If you have any questions about behavioural expectations or any other areas of interest, please send me an email at renee@thinkeffective.com.au

or check out Community or Cross-Sector Approach to Mental Health | THINK Effective Consultancy

for more detailed information, resources and about how we can work together.

As always, please feel free to share my blog post with friends and colleagues and contact me with any questions.

Have a great day! 🙂

Renee Knapp

PS Sometimes a blog post just isn't enough and you want to talk to a real person to help you move forward.  I totally get it.  You can get in contact with me @ 
renee@thinkeffective.com.au   OR
CLICK HERE to get on a Zoom Chat
and we can chat about how I could work with you, your team or your school to make your vision or ideas come to life.

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