Members of a new project in Bendigo are ready to talk with community members about their mental health and help link them with wellbeing services in the area.
With the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic still felt throughout central Victoria and beyond, the Assisting Communities through Direct Connection project is going door-to-door to check-in with locals.
The Bendigo site is one of 20 being run around Australia by Community Mental Health Australia.
"Unfortunately for many reasons people do not want to talk about or even think about their mental health," Community Mental Health Australia chief executive Bill Gye said.
"People may prefer to tough it out, hide it from others, or avoid the stigma. The ACDC Project is going directly to households in Australia to engage them in conversation about these important issues."
CMHA is working with local service provider, Stride Mental Health, to door-knock in White Hills and North Bendigo from November 2021 to March 2022.
The ACDC Project makes contact via friendly people connectors who let people know about the free services available and deliver an information pack with a fridge magnet and brochures.
The local services included in the information packs are easily accessible and relevant to the Bendigo community.
ACDC Project people connector Marc Beard said the project will make a difference to the community.
"I think the project will help Bendigo in a big way. It will hopefully get people talking about their wellbeing and increase their knowledge about what is out there for support," he said.
The other aim of the ACDC Project is to gather feedback on any service gaps, so that improvements can be made by local, state, and federal governments.
For each of the communities visited throughout Australia, the ACDC Project will generate data and information about the reasons why people do not access support from local services.
Another ACDC Project people connector Sharon Mitchell said the doorknocking had been going well so far.
"I have been overwhelmed by the great response we have received from the Bendigo community and the positivity they have shown toward the project," she said.
"So many people have been happy to engage with us. We have heard some amazing stories and some heart wrenching ones."
The findings of the ACDC Project evaluation report will contribute to discussions about funding for community managed mental health services in Australia, and how the mental health support needs of people in communities are delivered.
It will also evaluate how effective a proactive approach is in reaching, engaging, and resourcing people to connect with services.
"The ACDC Project aims to address a serious problem with mental health services in Australia. Often, people only look for or receive support when they are in crisis," Mr Gye said.
"We must be much more proactive connecting and communicating with people about the importance of wellbeing. Prevention and early intervention are far more effective than dealing with people in crisis."
The ACDC project provides this important information to householders of all educational, cultural and language backgrounds to promote access to mental health, social and emotional wellbeing support.
If the householder is not home a card is left in their letterbox with contact details so they can ask the People Connectors to come back.
The ACDC Project is funded by the Department of Social Services.
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