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Community Farmacy--The Helping Hand Initiative

17 Jul 2018

Pharmacists are often the first port of call for people seeking general health advice. This is especially true in rural communities, where health services may not be as accessible as urban areas.

The local pharmacist can be a source of health advice, counselling, and all-round problem-solving and support. Acknowledging the pivotal community role of the local pharmacist, and the higher rates of mental illness in rural and remote areas, the Commission funded Community Farmacy—The Helping Hand Initiative to deliver mental health first aid training to pharmacy staff and farming community members in four rural locations. 

A total of 48 pharmacy staff and community members completed the training in Dalby, Toowoomba, Goondiwindi and Bundaberg.

Rolled out by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland Branch, the initiative aimed to improve the participants’ general knowledge of mental illness, teach them how to help someone with a mental illness (including symptoms and signs to look for), and to reduce stigmatising attitudes that can prevent people with mental illness from seeking help early.

As well as mental health first aid training (strategies to help a person until appropriate professional help is received or a crisis resolved), participants were introduced to a helpful resources, including ifarmwell (an online resource designed by Australian farmers to help farmers cope with life’s challenges), and beyondblue (advice and information to support optimum mental health).

In addition to the training, partnerships were established to develop, document and share much-needed referral pathways and links to other healthcare professionals. Creating and promoting a network of connections between appropriate professionals and services is key to ensuring people get the right help at the right time.

Queensland Alliance for Mental Health supported the initiative by providing information on locally led mental health service providers. Collaborating with local regional councils in Dalby, Goondiwindi and Bundaberg also helped promote the initiative. The Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast Primary Health Network assisted by providing links to local farming organisations.

Participants reported they had gained awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental illness and felt more confident to start conversations about mental illness after completing the training.