Mind the gap: $2.5m initiative to improve mental health and wellbeing in the Shoalhaven

Mind the gap: $2.5m initiative to improve mental health and wellbeing in the Shoalhaven

New patient centred initiative to tackle mental health and wellbeing in the Shoalhaven.

A joint initiative by UOW and Shoalhaven City Council is tackling the issue of mental health and wellbeing in the Shoalhaven area by establishing an innovative mental health care facility providing patient centred, holistic care.

The new purpose-built $2.5 million MIND the GaP facility to be located at UOW’s Shoalhaven Campus in Nowra, will address the high rate of mental health needs in the Shoalhaven community, particularly amongst younger people, and will focus on improving the prevention, early recognition and treatment of mental health issues, including suicide prevention. 

With construction due to commence in mid-2016, the MIND the GaP facility will bring together health care professionals, researchers and frontline support services, such as Lifeline, to create an integrated mental health and wellbeing precinct to promote new ‘best practice’ mental health care initiatives.  

The initiative, which is jointly funded by the Commonwealth Government’s National Stronger Regions Fund ($1.229M) and the University of Wollongong ($1.230M) will be led by Shoalhaven City Council and the University of Wollongong, and delivered in partnership with Lifeline South Coast, Lifeline Australia Research Foundation, COORDINARE, Nowra Medicare Local, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health District, Noah’s Shoalhaven, and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI).

Professor Paul Wellings CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong said:

“The MIND the GaP initiative is about addressing the gaps in mental health care for people living in regional and remote areas. Suicide rates in rural communities are avoidably high and by harnessing the expertise and skills of the University and our partners on this project, we can make real inroads into addressing mental health issues for vulnerable people living in the Shoalhaven.”

“We hope that learnings and research outcomes delivered through the MIND the GaP program can be used to benefit other parts of regional and rural Australia.” 

Professor Alison Jones, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong said:

“The MIND the GaP initiative will help to improve the lives of people living in the Shoalhaven, particularly young, vulnerable residents. We know that by focusing on preventative mental health strategies and improving overall community health we can effectively build resilience against the development of mental health problems.

“A major area of concern for the Shoalhaven area is trauma recovery and suicide prevention. With this in mind, initiatives delivered out of the MIND the GaP facility will focus on developing new models of care in suicide prevention, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression and will be backed up by evidence-based research. 

“By partnering with organisations such as Lifeline, who are at the coal-face in combating mental health issues, we are able to provide holistic care for people at various stages of the mental health continuum.” 

Stephen Long, Chair of Lifeline South Coast said:

“We are proud to be part of this innovative approach to mental health care delivery. By collocating with health care providers and one of Australia’s leading Universities we will have access to world’s best research and be able to put that research into practice to save lives.”  

The MIND the GaP facility will provide therapeutic spaces for treatment (such as clinical psychology services) as well as a home for community outreach programs such as suicide prevention strategies, and whole-of-school-based bullying programs.

The facility will also provide Tele-Mental Health (TMH) opportunities by providing links to consultant psychiatrists, physicians and other mental health providers for patients online in their own home, a doctor’s office or community health centre. This facilitates the delivery of affordable, high-quality health care that may otherwise have been unavailable in a regional setting.

The MIND the GaP facility will build on the established presence of the University’s Graduate School of Medicine and School of Nursing currently based on UOW’s Shoalhaven Campus and the strong foundations of health and wellbeing services that exist within the region.