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Drought support clinicians for Health Boards

Gavin Johannesen is the new drought support mental health clinician based in the south west.
Nanjing Night Net

NEWmental health clinicians have been appointed to help deliver services to north and southwest Queensland as part of a state government mental health drought and disaster support package.

South West Hospital and Health Service mental health program manager Christine McDougall said clinical nurse Gavin Johannesen had started work as the new regional adversity coordinator in the south west.

A similar position in the north west, based out of Roma, has gone to Jayne Watkins.

The central west position has yet to be filled.

Mr Johannesen will service the whole of the south west, delivering a new integrated clinical care program to help people at risk of suicide and other mental health issues in communities hit by drought, disasters and crises.

“He will also help improve coordination and collaboration between all the key agencies in our region, both government and non-government, that are involved in mental health,’’ Ms McDougall said.“We want to make sure no one falls through the cracks.’

“The aim will be to develop networks, resources and events that build community connectedness and resilience in the face of adversity such as drought, natural disasters and other crises.’’

The funding for Mr Johannesen and eight other clinicians was announced by Health and Ambulance Services Minister Cameron Dick in November last year. They form part of the state government’s $3.5 million Tackling Adversity in Regional Drought and Disaster Communities through Integrating Health Services (TARDDiHS) scheme.

“Rural Queensland’s rates of suicide are far greater than in the rest of the state,” Mr Johanessen said.

“Research shows that for every suicide, there are another 80 people including family, work colleagues and emergency personnel affected.”

One of the biggest challenges confronting Mr Johannesen and his team is that people needing assistance, rarely ask for it.

“They don’t ask for help because they see themselves as a failure and don’t want to receive charity,” he said.

“We want to help people who are at risk of suicide, or who have attempted self-harm, or suffering from other mental health issues.

“Men in particular often see themselves as breadwinners and, when they lose their job or suffer financial setbacks, they feel helpless and can’t cope with these difficult situations.

“Often their wives need to find a job which necessitates moving away into towns with young children.

“Sometimes they need to take their children out of boarding schools because of no money, and this leaves them with a feeling of worthlessness.

“The support program is not limited just to farmers, but all men, women and children going through a crisis.

“If they don’t want to self-refer, family, friends, work colleagues or neighbours can refer them by calling the 24/7 call centre on 1300 642 255.’’

Mr Johannasen and Ms McDougall, will visit all south west health facilities from May 9 to introduce the TARDDiHS program.

Mr Johannesen said he urged community organisations to contact him with ideas of how TARDDiHS could help identify people at risk, or promote the services available to the community.

“I want to work with these organisations to get our message out and help those in need of assistance,” he said.

“We plan to mail every household in our region with a brochure, which will include a section for self-referring in a reply-paid envelope.”

As part of the program, brochures also will be distributed at the Roma Saleyards and at district shows.

Mr Johannesen has more than 20 years’ experience in mental health nursing and disabilities, and holds a Master of Mental Health Nursing from the University of Southern Queensland.

Prior to coming to Roma late last year, Mr Johannesen was a clinical nurse in the mental health division at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

“My experiences of living in rural communities and working in mental health, gives me an excellent insight of the issues facing many people struggling in rural Queensland,” he said.

• Mr Johannesen can be contacted at Community and Allied Health, 59-61 Arthur St, Roma.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.