Freemasons South-West Victoria Bushfire Mental Health Support Program

In response to the March 2018 bushfires in the Terang, Cobden, and Camperdown areas, Freemasons Victoria launched a Bushfire Appeal. Men in regional and remote areas are 1.3 to 2.6 times more likely to die by suicide than those in urban areas. Local evidence shows that men aged between 35-64, who have had contact with welfare, community and/or housing services in the past 12 months and who are dealing with multiple stressful life events, are most likely to die by suicide. Sadly, farmer and farming related jobs represent the largest single group of those who died by suicide within the south-west region between 2009 – 2014.

Freemasons Victoria have brought together 4 service providers, with common interest but differing service focus, to address an identified gap in the delivery of mental health support to communities in distress. The aim is to reduce the potential for self-harm and suicide in rural communities. The program will improve the skills of these ‘Front Line Interactionists’ (vets, milk tanker drivers, bank workers etc.) to be better able to: “Recognise, Respond, and Refer”, thereby knowing how and when to link those at risk with those who can help.

The program partners and local Freemasons met in Warrnambool on Thursday 7 June 2018 to launch the Freemasons South-West Victoria Bushfire Mental Health Support Program.

Pictured above left to right: Jarrod Woff (Corangamite Shire) WBro. John Patterson (Freemason, Rosebank Lodge No. 348) Jane Fitzgibbon (Let’s Talk) Bro. Jim Doukas – (Freemason, Warrnambool Lodge No. 34) VWBro. Bob Pullin (Freemason, Rosebank Lodge No. 348) Carly Dennis (Lifeline Direct) John Parkinson (St John of God Health Warrnambool Hospital) Jeremy Cattell (Office Manager, FMV) Absent: Abbie Cameron (Southwest Primary Care Partnership)

Community education and awareness raising

Mental health-care workers

Credentialed mental health

Personal experience presenters

Part 1: Recognise - Respond- Refer

A series of 10 community education and awareness raising forums:

• Developed and presented by Lifeline, with participation from the other three program partners

• 1 – 2 hour free community forums, targeting Front Line Interactionists

• Held in local areas, identified by the program partners

• Professional support, supervision and debriefing for individuals on an as needs basis.

Part 2: Front Line Interactionist training and support

Dedicated 1 on 1 contact between Credentialed Mental Health Practitioners and front line interactionists (FLIs):

• St John of God will provide Credentialed Mental Health Practitioners to spend time in the field with FLIs. Practitioners will provide part of the support services for FLIs.

This aspect of the program:

• Enhances the capacity of the FLIs to understand and apply the Recognise – Respond – Refer model

• Provides debriefing opportunities for FLIs carrying the burden of responsibility for the care of others

• Increases the involvement of health care providers in the target community

• Improves the capacity for health care providers to either provide direct services to the target community, or to identify individuals for referral