By Jackson Russell
For the past 12 months, Swinburne University’s Social Innovation Research Institute has engaged with the Kilmore community in a mental health and wellbeing project.
The project’s vision is that all people in Mitchell Shire can be connected, supported, resilient and inclusive.
Through the project, the Kilmore Community Wellbeing Group was formed, which includes people representing the community, The Kilmore and District Hospital, community groups, Mitchell Suicide Prevention Network, businesses and Mitchell Shire Council staff.
Last year, the group began meetings to explore what was important and what was missing to support local mental health and wellbeing, with each bringing their own perspective to form a well-rounded picture of the issues surrounding mental health in Kilmore.
From these meetings, three key issues were identified that impacted mental health and wellbeing in Kilmore and the surrounding district: a lack of services and support, family violence and support for young people.
An action plan was also formed to specifically address the issues, identifying three actions to promote mental health and wellbeing.
One action has already received funding, with community radio station OKR FM to present a series called Stories for Outreach, talking to community members about their experiences with mental health and how they found support within the community.
Social Innovation Research Institute researcher Tracy De Cotta, who is leading the project, said the stories would allow people in the community who might be suffering from mental health issues to learn where they could get help.
“It’s this idea to get that information out there and by doing that and getting people to talking, it also reduces the stigma so hopefully if more people hear people talking about it then it doesn’t feel as such a difficult thing to talk about or ask for help,” she said.
The second action, Community Check-in, is a series of workshops to give the community tools that help them to talk more openly about mental health and wellbeing.
The workshops would get specific groups in the community together, such as youth, mothers or men’s sheds, to talk about the specific issues they might encounter.
“It’s about helping people in specific groups focus on what their pressures are and how they’re able to relieve their own pressures and talk about their own pressures without that stigma or being afraid to ask for help and having the language to be able to use to say to someone who isn’t asking for help, I could help you,” Ms De Cotta said.
The third, Data for Advocacy, is an effort to compile data or possibly set up a data collective in Kilmore, where organisations can share information they have collected to build a clearer picture about mental health issues in Kilmore and the surrounding area, and then use that data to advocate to government or philanthropy to bring more services to the area.
While the project has been somewhat affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms De Cotta said Kilmore Community Wellbeing Group now had the tools to be self-sustainable.
“Our role really was to facilitate bringing the groups together… specifically to get that opportunity to sit down and talk to each other about mental health and wellbeing,” she said.
“Now the goal is to empower those members to go out and do these actions without us pushing it forward, but we’re here still facilitating it and supporting it in any way we can.”