90 SECONDS: MENTAL HEALTH | RUOK – Men’s Walk and Talk

I rise to talk on an issue that is close to my heart and one that touches the lives of all Australians, and that is mental health. Mental health affects one in four Australians each year, with 75 per cent of mental health issues occurring before the age of 25. What’s even more alarming is that suicide continues to be the largest cause of loss of life for young Australians. That is why it’s so important that we continue to invest in our mental health services and ensure each Australian has access to the support that they need.

I’m pleased to say the Morrison government continues to deliver on funding for mental health. I have been a very strong advocate for mental health and I’m very pleased to update the House that we’re keeping up the momentum with my plan to deliver more mental health services on the Bayside.

The last time I spoke on this project was in November of last year after reconvening the Bayside Mental Health Working Group. With over 20 local mental health experts and community providers in attendance, the key focus of this meeting was delivering for youth mental health. During our previous meetings, the working group had identified youth mental health as a gap in desperate need of being filled on the Bayside. I invited Brisbane South PHN, in partnership with Feros Care, to present a local-subscribing and internationally recognised approach to youth mental health. Loneliness and isolation are known risk factors in multiple youth issues and the team presented a prototype for 14- to 25-year-olds. The presentation was very well received, with some excellent suggestions put forward from the working group which have now been incorporated into the model.

Co-producing the service is vital for its success and so the meeting was invaluable. I am very pleased to confirm that consultation with local youth has since commenced on the Bayside. This will inform the final model, which the team looks forward to sharing with us soon. I’m incredibly encouraged by this news, as it is evidence of seeing our local community groups come together with the common goal of filling mental health services gaps on the Bayside.

From these community roundtable discussions, I was introduced to Roses in the Ocean, which I have since partnered with to deliver a pop-up safe space pilot program on the Bayside. This program offers a drop-in, non-clinical alternative to emergency departments for people experiencing emotional distress or suicidal crisis. This model has been developed in recognition of the fact that acute clinical services, such as emergency departments, are not always the best fit for people in emotional pain and distress. These pop-up safe spaces offer an alternative – a welcoming environment that can fill the gaps that are currently in our system.

As the safe spaces are community led and locally designed, this enables them versatility to look, feel and operate in different ways, depending on the community’s demographic and geographical needs. They are also staffed by trained prevention peer workers, who themselves have experienced crisis and therefore can connect and relate to others through mutual understanding. There are currently five of these pilot programs across Australia, and I’m proud to say that through my advocacy I have been able to deliver one of these pilot programs in Bonner.

I would also like to take this time to highlight the Men’s Walk & Talk initiative, which is providing an incredibly important network for men within Bonner. In January of this year I joined with the Men’s Walk & Talk to celebrate their first birthday. This group was started by Jeff Kruger and Mitch Rowing. It focuses on supporting men by encouraging them to walk, talk and connect with other men in the area. What began as a weekly Sunday morning walk in Carina’s Minnippi Parklands was quickly embraced by the community. It was so popular, that in December of last year Jeff and Mitch added an additional walking route along the Bayside. Now there are over 50 men at both of these Men’s Walk & Talks each week. On last year’s RUOK? Day I was also able to sponsor a sausage sizzle for the men after their walk in Carina. This provided a time for them to catch up and get to know some of the new faces.