Julie Ward Bushfire Recovery Clinician, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Community Health Centre Armidale, Hunter New England Health District
In relation to the “Tailgate4Mates” initiative, I’d like to see more of these go ahead in the small and remote communities. Having been part of a few, I see great benefit in providing a casual platform for community connection and support with a few key messages and provision of important contact information, if required. Of most importance, it provides opportunity for small communities to at least think about the support they may need for themselves as well as support required and available for their family, friends, and neighbours. As someone who has worked in mental health in a variety of settings for over 20 years, I always promote initial support being provided by what we term as the “natural support system,” which is those listed above. This can often be enough for a person and it is the most sustainable (cost neutral) mode for connection and help. “Tailgates4Mates” provides a prompt for all of us to think about our “mates” and offer a chat. Should someone require additional support from a specialist, it also provides the appropriate local or 24-hour contact details
they may need in a crisis. Hopefully by having open conversations about these issues, we can destigmatize mental health in general and normalize the experience of needing support at times of stress. Although our program may not be able to have a presence at all events, I hope communities will continue to embrace the idea and come together frequently in whatever way is relevant to their community, as this will be essential in their recovery journey. Lessons Learned All disasters are local but the impact on the mental well-being of those affected is universal. The resources developed by the WTT team can inspire and be adapted to the culture and needs of people needing supportive resources. Meeting with teams from Australia required coordination and time zone adjustments for the teams. The WTT team was on the virtual call at 7 p.m. central time, while the Australia teams were on the call at 10 a.m. in their time zone.
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