Rural Minds program review –

Earlier this year the Rural and Remote Mental Health team gathered in Queensland to attend a two-day review of our Rural Minds program. The Rural Minds Program was created for anyone connected to the land or living in rural parts of Australia. Life on the land is tough, the manual labour, unpredictable weather and isolation from many services put a heavy strain on those that live and work there. In these remote areas, weeks on end can potentially be spent alone. Access to professional medical care can be hours away and other supports are hard to come by. We acknowledge the challenges faced by these communities and the toll this takes on their mental well-being in our programs.

The half-day Rural Minds Program consists of practical and culturally relevant information, including the signs and symptoms of poor mental health, preventative tips, self-help techniques and how and where people can reach out for help. As communities and the mental health sector evolves, we are conscious of the constant need to re-evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of our programs. Behind this process is the dedicated and passionate RRMH programs team led by Nathan Mercurio, Director of Programs and Operations, and supported by our Programs Coordinator, Joanne Conyers.

We spent the two days in Plainland, delivering and reviewing the program (facilitated by Debbie Smith of Country Care Connections), acknowledging emerging issues and trends we need to address and refining the content accordingly.  We were also assisted by external expertise with a long association with the program and rural living.

As an organisation focused on rural and remote Australia, we are committed to ensuring our subject matter, imagery and video content are highly relatable to participants. This brings credibility to our workshops and trust that the people we use to present our program live and work in rural and remote parts of Australia and can relate on a personal level to the topics and the people in the room. We believe this is key to establishing trust and a safe environment where participants can be open and relate stories that others in the room and our presenters will easily relate to.

We are also reviewing our evaluation procedures, including moving from a paper base to online feedback to increase participation and allow for better evaluation of the effectiveness of the program. Our goal is to provide a greater understanding of mental wellness, signs and symptoms of distress and how to ask for or get help. We are also excited to be developing a new program for our rural youth as well as introducing some online learning modules to allow for greater access by those who are unable to travel, are time poor or prefer this means of learning.