How an Australia Post Community Grant can be used to encourage people to seek mental health support
Regional community groups are encouraging their community members to not only have regular social time together, but to actively seek mental health support, with funding from a Community Grant.
Video: The Australia Post logo sits in the bottom right corner. In a rural area, a white-haired woman waves as she passes a blacksmith's shop. Elderly people chat near a barbecue. A large sign reads, "Morawa." A 30-something man is interviewed near farm buildings. His shirt is emblazoned "North Midlands Project." A country town's main street is lined with old-fashioned shops. Windmills spin.
Audio: Man: Community connectedness is really important for the general health and wellbeing of the people in our community. We're in small, regional, geographically dispersed communities so it's really important to bring people together and create social opportunities.
Video: A sign reading "Entry to Museum" stands outside a small weatherboard building. White text reads, "Introducing North Midlands Project, a 2020 Australia Post Community Grant Recipient." The blacksmith talks to visitors. In the museum, a young woman runs a children's art session. People, many of them elderly, visit the museum, chat at the barbecue, fix old-fashioned farm equipment, and chat.
The man's interview continues.
Text: "Andrew Bowman-Bright, Community Program Manager, North Midlands Project."
Audio: Andrew: North Midlands is in the Mid West region of WA. We work across multiple communities to enrich and improve the quality of life and wellbeing of those in the community. A lot of the activities we do are encouraged to create social connectedness, so to provide opportunities that foster people to have a chat with each other. Building social connection plays a really important role in the mental health of the people in our community. We do also invite mental health service providers to come along. They often attend and bring brochures, and so it provides a great informal opportunity for them to actually interact with a cross-section of the community. The impact on the community has been extremely positive, giving that sense of belonging, sense of purpose.
Video: A blonde woman is interviewed among farming equipment in the museum.
Text: "Heather Walter, Local Community Resident."
Audio: Heather: I absolutely think that it's important to have these sorts of events to connect our local people with each other.
Video: A man is interviewed in the museum.
Text: "Matthew Pursol, Local Community Resident."
Men warm their hands over sausages cooking on the barbecue.
Audio: Matthew: Without events like this, I don't think we'd get the opportunity to come together as a community. Especially in these areas, we're quite remote. Community is all-important.
Video: Women chat and eat at the barbecue. Children attend the art session. The blacksmith demonstrates. Men work on farm equipment. A woman buys a cake. People chat.
Audio: Andrew: We'd love to thank Australia Post for supporting our Stronger Together community days. It's been really good to actually hear people as they leave sometimes say what a good time they've had, to have a chat, to try new things, and connecting with those around them.
Video: The Australia Post logo appears on a red screen. Below, text reads, "When we connect, we feel better. auspost.com.au/grants."
Strong, thriving communities are connected communities. That’s the premise behind the North Midlands Project, a community strengthening organisation that aims to get people chatting and catching up regularly in order to boost their mental health and wellbeing.
The North Midlands Project is a not-for-profit arts, culture, history and heritage organisation. Their mission is for regional Western Australia to be known for its happy, healthy communities and vibrant, connected towns – and they’re doing this through active social connection and the smashing of mental health stigma.
Connection is vital for wellbeing in every community. It can be particularly challenging for those in rural and regional areas, and this is something that the North Midlands Project faces.
“We're in small, regional, geographically dispersed communities, so it's really important to bring people together and create social opportunities,” says Andrew Bowman-Bright, Community Program Manager at the North Midlands Project. Despite the tests that comes with getting people together, the outcomes are worth the effort. “Community connectedness is really important for the general health and wellbeing of the people in our community.”
Community groups can use a regional Community Grant to create regular community connections.
Connecting people for positive mental health outcomes
In these regional towns, the isolation that stems from living a large distance from neighbours and friends can be harmful for mental health. But these communities are determined to thrive on a sense of belonging and purpose.
The team of more than 40 people at the North Midlands Project, most of whom are volunteers, have big goals that they reach through their events and support programs. The organisation’s programs include art exhibitions, creative support groups, and a capacity building framework. These programs are co-designed with local health, justice and education departments, and local government, to ensure they meet the needs of local people and improve the community’s quality of life.
Andrew explains, “we've found that people have really appreciated being part of the broader community, knowing that people aren't alone, and that's something that these events have really helped foster.”
Using a regional Community Grant to prove that communities are Stronger Together
With support from an Australia Post Community Grant Australia Post’s Community Grants Program, the North Midlands Project is running a targeted community connection initiative. The project engages over 6,000 community members across the towns of the North Midlands area.
Stronger Together Community Days is a series of community events designed to connect the North Midlands community. The events connect people and encourage them to maintain connections with their neighbours and community.
“We normally have a broad range of activities taking place, so there's hopefully something that interests everyone,” Andrew says. “We do a lot of art workshops. We do a lot of creative activities and at the same time, be social, have a chat to people.”
The North Midlands Project involves a range of activities for community members to take part in.
There’s also the opportunity for people to access mental health support in an informal way, in order to reduce stigma, increase accessibility to support services, and raise the numbers of people who feel comfortable enough to seek help.
“It provides a great informal opportunity for them to interact with a cross-section of the community. We've found it provided a lot of referral opportunities to mental health support services” says Andrew.
“It's been really good to actually hear people as they leave sometimes say what a good time they've had, to have a chat, to try new things, and connecting with those around them”.