People connectors reach out

ACDC Project's people connectors, Jacqui Wilkinson, Emily Wolsey, Shannon Sharkey and Andrew White, are door knocking around Gisborne and Romsey checking in on people's mental health.

Sometimes all it takes is a conversation.

A new project in the Macedon Ranges aims 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 Australia, the Assisting Communities through Direct Connection project is going door-to-door to check in with locals.

The Macedon Ranges site is one of 20 being run around Australia by Community Mental Health Australia.

CMHA is working with local service provider, HMS Collective, to door knock in Gisborne and Romsey from October 2021 to January 2022.

“Unfortunately for many reasons people do not want to talk about or even think about their mental health,” said CMHA CEO Bill Gye.

“People may prefer to tough it out, hide it from others, or avoid the stigma. The ACDC Project is going directly to households to engage them in conversation about these important issues.”

ACDC Project workers are not typical door knockers. They make 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 Macedon Ranges community.

The ACDC Project line manager, Jacqui Wilkinson, hopes the project will have multiples areas of impact for the local community.

“The project will help to reduce the stigma around mental health in our community, create awareness of our local mental health and wellbeing services, and provide opportunities for future improvements in mental health in the Macedon Ranges,” she 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.

Shannon Sharkey, a people connector in the Macedon Ranges, said she was not sure how people would respond to someone showing up at their door, but locals had been more than friendly so far.

“It has been a really positive experience with most householders being interested in having a chat with us. People are really grateful once they feel they have been listened to,” Shannon said.

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.

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.

“This will benefit our community in many ways not just now while we are door knocking and having meaningful social interactions, but also into the future for how mental health services are delivered in regional and rural communities,” Jacqui said.

The project is funded by the Department of Social Services.