Where there’s a Will has had a bit of a win lately and we wanted to share the details with you because this whole-of-community approach that we’re taking to improving mental health and wellbeing is capturing the attention of many outside the area.

Just recently WTAW was invited to address Practice Nurses, Receptionists and Doctors from surgeries across the entire Hunter, New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network. The conference was focused on Practice improvement and how to move primary care forward.

Needless to say, we leapt at the opportunity.

“We highlighted how things like skin cancer have a really wholistic approach. We know what we’ve got to do to prevent it, we’re aware of the signs and symptoms and then there’s treatment and care available. It gets the whole package: awareness, prevention, intervention and treatment,” said WTAW founder Pauline Carrigan.

“When it comes to mental health there’s no prevention campaign in existence like the highly effective ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ ads, there’s very little awareness of signs and symptoms or interventions available and then when you reach the point of needing treatment we’re vastly understaffed, vastly under skilled and vastly under resourced.

“So we showcased some preventative measures we’re putting in place that involve the whole community; the work we’re doing in schools, with sporting teams, with businesses and the work we’re about to start with families.

“We are turning the tables by facilitating the delivery of Positive Education in our schools. From an early age we are giving kids the same tools a psychiatrist or counsellor would try and encourage people to use once they are ill. Basically, we’re saying let’s learn these skills up front and avoid the risk.”

They were messages heard loud and clear by those in attendance according to Mel Cromarty, the team leader for the Primary Health Network’s Primary Care Improvement.

“Pauline shared the message that mental health is everyone’s responsibility and that the way we’re currently addressing the issue has to change. If we don’t stand united as parents, friends and as a community we’re never going to address the mental health monster, it’s just going to get bigger,” Cromarty said.

“The reality is that we’re never going to have enough referral services. The complaint is constant that we don’t have anywhere to send people who need help. But Where there’s a Will highlighted how communities can work together and help plug those holes.

“For us, that starts by making everyone in the practice aware that mental health is everyone’s responsibility. We’re not all nurses or counsellors but it doesn’t take much to ask someone if they’re ok and to take a moment to sit and let them talk, to validate what they’re going through and make them feel a little less isolated and alone.

“We walked away with everyone wanting a WTAW in their towns. There’s an awareness that taking a strictly medical approach isn’t the only answer to supporting positive mental health outcomes and

Pauline highlighted why we need to think differently. Medicine can’t fix everything.

“It’s very clear that a cultural change is needed to promote a greater understanding of wellbeing. We need more people to know that regardless of how stressful and anxious our lives can be that it’s ok not to feel ok, we need people to be able to identify negative emotions and to take control of these feelings.”

So to everyone who’s supporting the journey of WTAW in the Upper Hunter, let’s keep up the good work!!! Take a moment to give this post a like and appreciate that we’re setting a great example for others to follow.