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Mental Health support for the Lithgow community

27 Jan 2022

 

The past few years have been very difficult for all people in our Local Health District, particularly those impacted by drought and bushfire, alongside the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew Russell, Director of Mental Health at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, says the hardships can take a toll on our mental health and wellbeing.

“I commend the community for their resilience in facing each of these challenges, as well as managing their own personal setbacks and hardships - but I strongly urge each and every one of us to pay attention to how we’re tracking mentally and emotionally,” Mr Russell says.

“If you find that you’ve been feeling down or anxious for more than two weeks, please make an appointment to see your GP. It might be that you could benefit from some additional support, such as access to subsidised psychology sessions or a referral to one of our community-based services.”

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The Lithgow Community Mental Health Service is staffed by a team of experienced, compassionate mental health professionals who provide a range of services to children, young people, adults and older people.

The service also provides specific support to men who work and live in the region experiencing distress associated with issues in their family, social life or employment. The team can work with these men to develop coping strategies, as well as to improve communication and connections with the people around them. 

The Lithgow service works closely with the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, which has enabled the team to introduce a number of innovative local mental health programs. One example, ‘Doctors in the Paddock’, has successfully boosted access to health services in the Lithgow local area by delivering farmer-focused community events via ‘health by stealth’ partnerships.

“For example, we were able to engage with local farmers at Q-Fever vaccination sites to provide access to wellness check-ins with mental health services and offer community outreach and follow-up,” Mr Russell says.

Mr Russell says men’s reluctance to seek help is one of the reasons they are an at-risk group for suicide.

This very sad trend is something that all Local Health Districts are working hard to reverse by implementing a range of suicide prevention services as part of the NSW Government’s Towards Zero Suicides strategy. As part of this state-wide $87 million investment, the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District is establishing a Suicide Prevention Outreach Team than will be based in Katoomba. This team will:

  • provide rapid outreach to people in suicidal distress in the community, including the Lithgow area
  • combine clinical expertise and lived experience of suicide
  • care for people at or near their homes – ensuring they stay connected with their family, friends and other valuable support networks.

The NSW Government is also training more than 10,000 Community Gatekeepers to be able to talk to anyone they’re concerned about – with a special focus on reaching communities most at-risk of suicide, such as men. To find out more, including where you can get training, please visit https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/towardszerosuicides/Pages/community-gatekeeper-training.aspx

For mental health support, call the 24-hour Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or contact the Lithgow Community Mental Health Service direct on 6350 2555 during business hours.

The Lithgow Community Mental Health Service is located at Lithgow Hospital, Cnr Col Drewe Drive & Great Western Highway, Lithgow.

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The NSW Government has also invested $36.4 million over four years for 57 mental health Response and Recovery Specialists across regional and rural NSW to provide assertive outreach support for communities, and coordination with local services at the time of a disaster or crisis, and during the ongoing recovery phase. For the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, this includes:

  • 2 FTE Farmgate Counsellors and Drought Peer Support Workers to continue to provide outreach and coordination with local services and communities for four years; and
  • 1 FTE Disaster Recovery Clinician for disaster affected areas, who will continue to work closely with primary health initiatives, community and welfare agencies and mental health services to provide direct care and respond to local community needs and issues on the ground. These positions are funded for two years.