Student News

Mental Health Night wrap up

By Nickee Priestman, Third Year Speech Pathology, Edith Cowan University

The WAALHIIBE mental health night had guest speakers from the Western Australian Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) and the Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service (SAMHS), who provided fantastic insight into their services and gave great advice for working with people who may be experiencing mental health issues.

Helen McMahon and Rachel O’Connell from WAPHA reminded us that mental health issues occur in all populations, often occurring alongside excessive alcohol or drug intake and social or physical problems, such as domestic violence. Rural mental health issues are estimated to be equivalent to those in cities, however, the availability and access to support services is a much greater challenge.

John van der Giezen of SAMHS shared his knowledge and experience of working with Aboriginal communities. He highlighted the importance of being aware of Aboriginal history, as past experiences for Aboriginal people still create fear when accessing services and continue to greatly affect mental health. John identified the need to develop relationships, building mutual respect and trust. Surprisingly, people with emerging mental health issues regularly wait up to three years before seeking treatment and this is often five times longer for Aboriginal people.

The presenters discussed the need to be a ‘rural generalist’, not to be confined to your discipline and the need to think beyond your skills and expectations. They reiterated the importance of working in regional areas, describing the opportunity it provides of putting theory into practice in situations that will not be experienced in the city, all whilst working with other professionals and the community.

We were also reminded of the need to maintain a healthy balance in our own life. It was suggested that a useful resource for students is the National Rural Health Students Network’s When the cowpat hits the windmill, a handy booklet written by students for students about how to stay mentally fit while on placement or working rurally.

Mental health night wrap up
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