A new men’s mental health service and online portal has been developed to support men in Ballarat who are struggling and unsure of how, or where to get help.
Ballarat Men’s Mental Health (BMMH) is a community-wide initiative developed by a team of locals in Victoria’s third largest city at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in the state’s central western region.
Once famed for its gold mining, Ballarat now boasts a suicide rate 65% higher than the Victorian average per 100,000 men and almost twice the suicide rate of Melbourne.
Up 50% of people in rural and regional Victoria who completed suicide had no contact with any health professional in the preceding six months, says BMMH.
Ballaratmmh.com.au describes itself as “a non-threatening, confidential ‘first point of call’ for men to contact and say, “I’m struggling, but I don’t know what to do.”
It aims to meet the needs of men who have not engaged with mental health and community services. BMMH says existing services are “often poorly linked and integrated, exacerbating the negative correlation between poor mental health and other chronic physical health problems.”
“Men, particularly the 20-50 age group, tend not to have a trusted relationship with health professionals. Instead, men are more likely to act on advice from friends, family and peers.”
BMMH has based its response on years of consultation with men and their families with lived experience, together with local mental health practitioners and other health-related entities in the Ballarat community.
They aim to provide a fully integrated service, supported by health professionals and guiding men step-by-step through ‘the system’ and referred as necessary to other support services such as legal, financial and family violence. “Our service will not depend on ability to pay,” they state.
Another strong focus is social connections in recognition of their core belief that men benefit greatly from social and community connectedness, “therefore a men’s mental health service cannot be truly effective if it doesn’t develop strong partnerships with a range of social support, employers, hobbyists and sporting groups.”
The Chair of BMMH is Andrew McPherson, who has worked in health care for 28 years, first as a physio and later, running rehab centres in Florida and New Mexico. He has established Headspace centres in Ballarat and Horsham.
Andrew is supported on the BMMH Board by directors from the local community, many of whom have a personal connection with the project and a range of skills to bring to the venture.
"We set up with the intention of trying to support men and their families with mental health issues or who are at risk of suicide," Mr McPherson told the Courier. "We are hoping they don't get either lost, or stuck, in the system."
A key goal of the BMMH is to make services easily accessible, designed specifically for men, not physically linked to other services and “seen as a safe and comfortable space for men.”
It is relying on donations to stay afloat. "We want to be seen as primarily a community-funded organisation," he said. "If we can get a lot of donors, maybe as many as two thousand local people just putting in a couple of dollars a week, that would go a huge way towards funding our service."
FIND OUT MORE: https://ballaratmmh.com.au/
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