Alliance members include Lishman Health Foundation chief Dianne Ritson, Shire finance manager Andrew Ross, community chairman Stuart Hicks, Dr Danny Rock from the WA Primary Health Alliance, and South West Public Health Network regional manager Kate Cross.
A newly-formed mental health advocacy group says it will help residents access services and support, and cut through confusion about what’s available to people living in the region.
The Augusta-Margaret River Community Health and Wellbeing Alliance was announced this week as part of a call for community representatives. Although committee membership was limited, interim taskforce community chairman Stuart Hicks said the group wanted volunteer representatives to step forward.
“I encourage energetic, interested members of our community to put their names forward to join the alliance,” he said.
Impetus for the new group was partly linked to the Lishman Foundation report into Margaret River, released earlier this year, which reviewed feedback from doctors and other stakeholders to find the rich-poor divide and community drug use were major contributors to the region’s high suicide rate.
“The alliance has been formed in response to a number of recent studies that have examined what is needed to collectively respond to our community’s mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Hicks said.
“The studies have highlighted opportunities to better address issues such as depression and anxiety, self-harm and suicide, family issues, dementia and trauma recovery if the community and service providers work more closely together.
“In a community like ours, with a reputation for an idyllic lifestyle, it’s too easy to push some issues under the carpet.”
Already signed up to support the group are the Lishman Foundation, the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, and the WA Primary Health Alliance. WAPHA principal adviser Dr Danny Rock said his organisation supported GPs to manage patients and determine where more specialised treatment was needed.
“It’s important this is not done in isolation, and so we are delighted to be invited to contribute to the work being done by the alliance,” he said. Dr Rock said his South West team would help the AMRCHWA “map what a healthy community looks like, how each group and organisation contributes, as well as identifying the gaps, how they can be filled, and by whom”.
Mr Hicks is preparing for an 18-month process during which the alliance’s four key pillars will be education campaigns, creating an online directory for mental health services, attracting more services to the region, and fine-tuning existing collaborations.
“When the alliance has been formed, its members will take responsibility to pursue these four key focus areas for implementation,” he said.
“With the pressures of modern life, some people are doing it tough.
“An alliance like this will be an important and pioneering joint effort.”
For details and to get involved, visit yoursay.amrshire.wa.gov.au/community-alliance.
Warren Hately – Augusta Margaret River Times
First published in the Augusta Margaret River Times 3 October 2019