Mental health practitioners in rural and remote Tasmania are changing the face of mental health care practices with the support of the Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN).
Nine practitioner networks operate in Tasmania with three located in the rural and remote areas of north-western Tasmania, Break O’Day in the north-east and Huonville in the south.
MHPN provides interdisciplinary practitioners with over 360 face-to-face networks nationally; and produced 24 webinars in 2018/19 which attracted over 29,000 attendees. Participants in MHPN activities are GPs, mental health nurses, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and a range of other practitioners involved in delivering primary mental health care.
MHPN Network Coordinator Trish O’Duffy manages the St Helens Neighbourhood House which is also the host organisation for the Break O’Day and Bicheno Suicide Prevention Trial Site funded through Primary Health Tasmania.
The Break O’Day Mental Health Professionals’ Network grew from the grassroots actions of local mental health professionals to support their community and strengthen collaboration following a number of suicides in their region a number of years ago.
“Mental health professionals at that time were working in silos, so the need was identified for professionals to provide peer-to-peer support, collaborate and strengthen linkages”.
In 2018, participants of the MHPN were part of the Break O’Day Mental Health Action Group, which won the Lifeline Tasmania Communities in Action LiFE Award for their community action plan, suicide prevention strategies and mental health week activities.
“The ripple effect from attending meetings is far-reaching. Making personal contacts enables mental health professionals to refer clients to much broader wrap-around supports and services”.
The network plays a valuable role in helping mental health professionals connect, learn and share knowledge about services and treatments, says Ms O’Duffy.
On the other side of northern Tasmania, Network Coordinator Zachary Carter says there’s a spread of practitioners across the north-west rather than a one-stop shop of allied health professionals that may be available in urban areas.
He says the North Western Tasmania Mental Health Network is vital for bringing a wide range of professionals together for community benefit.
“Connection, collaboration and harnessing cross-sector strengths helps build pathways to improved mental health outcomes for the people of the north-west coast,” Mr Carter said.
“We’ve got a collaborative approach from the therapeutic mental health community, not-for-profits and government departments so we get a nice mix of everyone.
“Network meetings often target specific known issues or a specific practitioner group to make our time as worthwhile as possible.
“It’s about connection and knowing what services are available so we can support each other. We look at common threads and issues for our region”.
Mr Carter says it’s also personally and professionally rewarding.
“I enjoy the opportunity to connect other practitioners together, which ultimately leads to better outcomes for people on the north-west coast”.