WEST PERTH, AUSTRALIA — The CBH Group is working to help improve the mental health of Western Australian regional communities with a new three-year A$600,000 partnership.

Lifeline WA, Youth Focus, Mental Illness Fellowship WA and Black Dog Institute will become part of the CBH Regional Mental Wellness Program, which was established in 2015 and seeks to increase access to mental health services across grain growing communities.

Simon Stead, chair of CBH, said mental health remained a significant issue for regional Western Australia, which was the reason CBH had sought more partners to provide services and increased funding to A$200,000 a year for the program.

“Over the past five years, our community investment fund has funded a mental wellness program with inaugural partner, Black Dog Institute, offering workshops and raising mental health awareness among health professionals, growers and high school students,” Stead said. “In continuing that contribution, CBH will provide a total of A$600,000 over the next three years to extend the program so we can reach more growers and community members. 

“We have partnered with four outstanding mental health service organizations who will deliver new or expand current services, programs and campaigns for regional Western Australians in the areas of prevention, intervention and continuing care. Together, we’re aiming to make help easier to access for growers and their communities so that they can look after their mental health.”

The new partnership was announced and launched following World Suicide Prevention Day (R U Okay Day).

Arthur Papakotsias, chief executive officer of Youth Focus, said the partnership would help Youth Focus build on its existing mental health and web-counselling services in the Wheatbelt.

“This partnership will provide much-needed mental health services to young people in grain growing regions, including web-counselling to towns where services are scarce or in some cases do not exist,” Papakotsias said. “While Youth Focus services extend across a large footprint from Albany to Geraldton, we are limited in our capacity to employ clinicians in small and remote towns.

“Corporate partners like CBH are integral in helping us reach as many young people as possible and we welcome this opportunity to extend our services in these areas to ensure people who need our support receive it.”

Youth Focus  provides free mental health services to young people aged 12 to 25 years with the aim of reducing symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide, and build long-term mental well-being.   

Lorna MacGregor, CEO of Lifeline WA, said now more than ever, maintaining mental health was critical.

“We are grateful to CBH for making mental health and suicide prevention a priority, especially for regional Western Australians,” McGregor said. “I encourage growers and community members who may be contemplating suicide, experiencing emotional distress, or caring for someone in crisis to call 13 11 14.”

Lifeline WA provides all Western Australians experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

Monique Williamson, CEO of Mental Illness Fellowship of WA (MIFWA), was pleased to work alongside CBH and other community services in the grain growing regions.

“In a time where there is a lot of media around mental health, we believe it’s important to shed light on strategies to build and support mental health and well-being,” Williamson said. “Our regional communities hold a groundswell of hard-working community minded people and we are grateful to have the opportunity to learn from them as well as provide our insight into well-being.”

MIFWA supports people who have experienced mental illness, and their families and careers, to find a way to reconnect with their life and community.

Helen Christensen, director of Black Dog Institute, said the forming of the partnership meant support would be placed where it was needed.

“We’re really excited to be partnering with the CBH Group to expand awareness around mental health issues,” Christensen said. “A large part of what we do at The Black Dog Institute is the translation of our research into education programs for the community. We are pleased this partnership will allow us to further this venture.”

The Black Dog Institute aims to reduce the severity and incidence of mental illness, actively reduce suicide rates, remove the stigma around mental illness, and empower everyone to look after their mental health.