Services reach out

Mental health advocates have been concerned that because of COVID-19 restrictions people have not been able to get together and talk as they would usually.

R U OK ambassador and mental health advocate Glenn Cotter organised for a number of mental health support services to be on hand at the Tura Beach shopping centre as part of R U OK? Day on Thursday, September 10 and said he felt it was a very positive day.

A variety of agencies reported interest and referrals to their services following conversations with people who came to chat.

"I had a number of good conversations with people, some about friends where they were concerned and we were able to connect people to services," Mr Cotter said.

"We want to encourage people to recognise that it's OK to ask and encourage people to check-in with friends," he said.

Mr Cotter is concerned that the pandemic has brought with it a loss of connectedness in the community, through the push to work online. "To some extent we have been heading down this path but the pandemic exacerbated it."

He says communities thrive on connectedness but he believes we're standing up remarkably well for what we have been through and could teach our cities something about resilience. He had plenty of praise for the services in Bega Valley saying they just go out and do it and don't worry about who gets the credit. "We love where we live and we support each other," Mr Cotter said.

We want to encourage people to recognise that it's OK to ask and encourage people to check-in with friends.

R U OK ambassador Glenn Cotter

HEADSPACE

Headspace provides free information, support and services to young people aged 12-25 and their families.

Liz Scott is a bushfire recovery community engagement officer and said young people who had a traumatic experience during the bushfires were still processing it but COVID had a bigger impact on mental health.

COVID has been a disruption around school and connection with other young people, Ms Scott said, adding that social media wasn't necessarily the answer as people still needed to sit and connect with others face to face.

"We are seeing a presentation of young people with higher levels of impact on their mental health."

She urged young people to pop into the Bega office or ring to make an appointment if they feel they are not coping.

RAMHP

Jennie Keioskie is a co-ordinator with the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program(RAMHP).

"We work in rural communities to try and reduce the inequalities between rural areas and the cities in terms of accessing health facilities, Ms Keioskie said.

She has been working with industry groups such as the oyster growers and Bega Cheese, helping to direct people to where and how they can access business grants.

Sometimes she says it is mental health by stealth. She arrives at a meeting ostensibly to discuss one issue but this often has the effect of releasing people to talk about their own mental health welfare. The organisation acts as a facilitator linking the most suitable mental health assistance for a person's situation.

SPAN

Span, run by volunteers, is the Bega Valley Suicide Prevention Action Network and helps people to know what support services are available. Kathy Miller from Span explained that the organisation had received a $10,000 donation from Insurance Advisernet which has been used to set up a new website (bvspan.org.au). Span recently held a walk of remembrance at Panboola for those impacted by suicide.

WELLWAYS

Wellways provides housing and accommodation support and offers recovery focused support to adults experiencing mental health issues.

The organisation is also an NDIS provider and currently has an education program around mental health urging people to treat mental and physical health equally and remove the stigma and discrimination.

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