Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flooding and it's Impact on Mental Health Australia - GP Fact Sheet

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has developed a general practice fact sheet providing useful information and resources to help with the impact of flood in relation to mental health.

GPs have been reported to be the most consulted group of health care professionals for people with mental illness, with 71 percent of patients in Australia initially presenting to their GP. Thus, it is likely that GPs will be the most likely health professionals consulted by people who have been affected by the recent floods and are experiencing some difficulties with their mental health.

The fact sheet contains key information about:
  • Trauma and response to natural disasters
  • Telephone counseling and help lines for patients
  • Mental health services directly involving general practitioners
  • Useful mental health resources for GPs needing support.
Professor Claire Jackson, RACGP President and GP in Brisbane, said that it is important that GPs take good care in regards to health of their patients, as well as their own mental health, during the coming weeks and months.

“GPs are most likely to be the first point of contact for patients experiencing mental health problems as a result of the floods; hence they should maintain a high level of awareness for depressive and anxious symptoms when treating patients. Also, GPs who look after themselves will be better equipped to provide the best possible care to their patients and the wider community during this unprecedented disaster,” she said.

RACGP 21 Jan 2011

This topic will be explored further at the 3rd Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium in Victoria in November 2011.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thoughts on Carers & Consumers in Rural & Remote Areas in Australia

Carers - Rural and Remote:

The ongoing impacts on the lives of mental health carers in rural and remote Australia are significant. Services for the consumer are much less available than in the city and the carer becomes a defacto ‘case manager’. The impacts on the carers’ life and health, immediate and long term finances, job and educational prospects form part of their concerns and are quite separate from their concerns about the health and wellbeing of the consumer.

Carer Concerns for the Consumers:
‘Who will look after him when I am gone’ this is the fundamental issue of all mental health carers. How can appropriate supported long term accommodation for the consumer be created and maintained in rural and remote Australia? What effective programs and projects exist both here and overseas? Carers continue to fulfil their role long after retirement age.

Create and Maintain Services:
Both medical and community services lack workforce in rural and remote locations. The community sector (PHAMS and Respite workers etc) may have little training and few career prospects. What incentives are there to keep them within their field of work and provide a career path within the local community? Incentives could include remote access to both the Cert 4 and Diploma in MH, fee payment, etc. Areas of increased productivity and employment prospects (e.g. booming mining areas) are vulnerable to rapidly losing the community workforce.

Innovative Integrated Models of Care in Rural and Remote Locations:
Carers in rural and remote areas can provide comprehensive models of care on a shoestring e.g. Active Minds in rural NSW. Showcasing some of these highly appropriate and successful (in terms of consumer satisfaction) services could encourage replication.

Incidental and Ancillary Workers:
In rural and remote locations it is imperative that the service providers have knowledge of mental illness, the effects on the consumer and carer and knowledge of how to respond. Those workers include all who come into contact with the consumer and carer especially: police, pharmacists, teachers, GP’s, front line Centrelink staff and housing officials. What examples of training exist, what follow up is there, are consumers and carers satisfied with the results?

Linda Rosie

Carer Engagement Project Manager
Mental Health Council of Australia

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How to help psychologically during – and after – the floods

Thousands of Queenslanders have been affected by the recent floods that have disrupted lives and created much distress, cutting off homes and even entire towns and causing the evacuation of  thousands.

Kevin Ronan, a Rockhampton resident and Chair of the Australian Psychological Society’s Disaster Reference Group, said: “There is no doubt that many people are going to be highly distressed by
these events, but I have witnessed a great sense of resilience in the community. The excellent response by the emergency services, and the leadership shown by our Mayor bodes well for recovery from these floods.”

The Australian Psychological Society has prepared the following guidance for the many hundreds of
professionals and volunteers who now want to know the best ways to support those affected to
assist their recovery.

Following a disaster, strive to promote a sense of safety and calm, while at the same time being willing to provide comfort and empathy for people’s distress and loss. Help people to contact friends and loved ones and get the practical assistance they need. Staying connected to support networks following a disaster has been identified as a critical part of people getting back to normal.

To re-establish a sense of safety, people may require help to meet basic needs for food and shelter, and to obtain emergency medical attention. People often need repeated, simple and accurate information on how to access these necessities. Give clear information about what is going on, and help to link them to available services..

Survivors are likely to need contact that is predictable, familiar and respectful. Some people need to share stories and emotions, and should be listened to, but in a way that does not encourage disclosure beyond the level at which they feel comfortable. Others may not want to talk about it at all, and this is also OK: it is not useful, and is perhaps even harmful, to press people to talk about their experiences if they don’t wish to in this initial stage.

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel.  People cope well when they believe they have the ability to manage a stressful event, so remind people of their own coping skills, strengths and resilience. Giving practical suggestions that steer them towards helping themselves and others can be very useful.

Pay attention to children’s needs: Children are a particularly vulnerable group following a disaster. Parents and caregivers should try to acknowledge any upset they may be experiencing while also reassuring their children that, as a family, they will be able to cope with the adversity caused by the floods.

Professor Ronan said: “Helping people reinvigorate a sense of hope, while acknowledging the real distress they may be experiencing, has been identified as one way of helping people manage more effectively as they begin the process of recovery.”

Source: Australian Psychological Society