By Pam Kiriakidis

A new service that supports older Victorians to access mental health and wellbeing treatment is available in Whittlesea, with a hub expected to be established in 2024. 

Mental health organisation Neami National, in partnership with Drummond Street Services, Uniting Vic Tas and Victorian Aboriginal Health services, has a team of peer support workers and clinicians working together to operate Whittlesea Mental Health and Wellbeing Local.  

Whittlesea is one of six Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals, with plans to establish 50 across Victoria by the end of 2026.  

People aged 26 and older are eligible to access the service without a referral, regardless of an individual’s visa status.  

While there are plans to open a physical space next year, the service currently offers outreach support and Telehealth, with staff able to meet people at their homes, in the community or remotely, for between six to 12 months.  

Lived experience service manager Alana Istanto said the operating hours – which extend to after 5pm on weekdays, including Saturdays and public holidays – were crucial. 

“Someone might just need to have a chat, there might be something going on for them and they speak to one of our peer workers, have a cuppa, and then we may not see them again – and that’s fine,” she said.  

“Someone may come in and need some more robust support, so we can then look at maybe allocating more of an ongoing workflow. 

“Our operating hours are also really important because we know that mental health and wellbeing doesn’t stop at five o’clock, so we have extended hours as well.”  

Ms Istanto said she hoped to bridge some of the barriers between travel and accessing mental health support in Whittlesea through the service. 

“Whittlesea is massive, it is a very big LGA, and we know that it has a diverse culture as well – having to travel to see a psychologist, someone from Whittlesea having to see someone in Thomastown is a big commute [for some people],” she said.

The service collaborates with Drummond Street Services and Victorian Aboriginal Health Services, who allocate lived experience workers and family practitioners to support people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, LGBTQIA+, multi-cultral and First Nations.

For people dealing with alcohol or other drugs, AOD, the service uses clinicians from Uniting Vic Tas to address the intersection of mental health and underlying challenges.

Ms Istanto said working with the other agencies had helped to acknowledge the complexities of somebody’s mental health.  

“Even though they’re from different organisations, they are still under the local status … we do our team meetings together, we allocate people accordingly to specialised roles depending on what someone is presenting with,” she said.

“It just means that when somebody comes in, we can support them with AOD counselling, but also have a peer worker to look at the mental health side of it, or one of our mental health clinicians.” 

People can contact the service on 1800 571 145 from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 7.30pm, and on Saturdays and public holidays between 12pm to 7.30pm.

1 COMMENT

  1. Possibly the worst photo to represent what this service actually is.
    As someone who works here – it will not look like a sad clinical GP office. It will be more relaxed with couches and chill out zones. The staff will not be in lab coats either!!!

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