The Times Australia

The Times

Health

The Village Approach Might be What Australia Needs to Mend Its Fractured Mental Health System

  • Written by Shane Muller - founder and CEO of SafeWatch

The heartbreaking scenes at Bondi Junction recently have sparked conversations about the disjointed nature of our country’s mental health system. Many people have asked, ‘How does something like this happen?’ Australians are now asking the federal government to consider the potential ‘systemic failings’ of our mental health system.

Research reveals that almost half of all Australian adults are expected to experience poor mental health during their lives. Revealing that everyone will be touched somehow, the figure demands an urgent shift to strengthen a collective approach to support that ensures nobody falls through the cracks.

Experts have criticised the largely siloed nature of care, which consequently undermines one’s path to recovery. Patients are responsible for bouncing between psychologists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare providers, resulting in inconsistencies in communication and approach.

“If each provider works in isolation, a change in medication by one psychiatrist may go unnoticed by the psychologist down the road. This places an undue burden on vulnerable people.”, shared mental wellness expert Shane Muller. “The lack of integration and centralised patient information creates an uphill battle.”

However, it isn’t just siloing within the healthcare systems that require further integration and coordination. To deliver truly holistic care and ensure support beyond the confines of a consultation room, a focus needs to be on seamless integration with housing, employment, and education services.

Despite the recent government funding efforts to address the crisis, like NSW’s $2.7 billion investment into mental health services for the 2023-2024 financial year, severe shortages and gaps in accessible support remain nationwide. With the consensus that much greater funding is needed nationally to correctly staff services and increase accessibility.

Following a review by the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, experts have called for the implementation of holistic, community-based strategies to transform fragmented care. Muller’s innovative platform, SafeWatch, offers an alternate yet intuitive solution.

“It’s true when they say it takes a village to raise a child,” he stated. “However, as those children become adults, the need for that village never disappears.”

Built on a village approach to care, the platform leverages the power of an individual’s community. Connecting an individual's chosen loved ones and their care providers, a unified and centralised ‘village’ of care is established. It allows the seamless sharing of all mental health information, updates, goals, and needs in one place, accessible to the entire support team.

“Unlike the highlight reels people typically share on social media, the SafeWatch platform creates a truly safe space for individuals to authentically share their struggles and challenges,” Muller explained.

At a time when rates of crippling loneliness and isolation have paradoxically spiked in parallel with the exponential rise in reliance on digital connection, an ability to create and foster a supportive environment isn’t always easy. “It’s one of life’s great modern ironies that the more seemingly ‘connected’ we become through technology, the more profoundly disconnected and alone people feel”.

“Too many people are battling mental health challenges as lone soldiers when decades of research show the transformative power of someone having your back. People don’t want to be alone; they just want to know someone genuinely cares.”

Beyond just mental health treatment, the village approach stands to have profound benefits for overall well-being and resilience in everyday life. Trying to build your own personal village—a circle of trusted friends, family, or mentors—can act as a powerful pillar of support. In a modern age of isolation, reclaiming the healing power of true human connection and support will go a long way.

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