General News

20 August, 2022

Survey exposes gaps, access to support services

A DOOR-to-door survey conducted throughout the streets of Mareeba over three months earlier this year has revealed that mental health is a major issue within the community and many people are struggling to get help.

By Robyn Holmes

Survey exposes gaps, access to support services - feature photo

The Assisting Communities through Direct Connection Project involved direct contact with 1013 householders in Mareeba, 362 of whom then completed a survey of their experiences with mental health and accessing services in their community.

The survey found that 46 per cent of the householders wanted to seek help for their mental health in the past 12 months, but 44 per cent of these householders did not get the help they needed.

Survey responses suggest a significant proportion of people prefer to self-manage or are facing barriers that prevent them from reaching out to services including fear, embarrassment or shame, costs associated with paying for support services, or feeling unsure about where to go for help. 

Of the 24 per cent of respondents who said they had a mental health issue, 73 per cent identified depression and anxiety disorder as the top two conditions.

Recognising that mental health is shaped to a great extent by the social, economic, and physical environments in which people live, the survey also asked what people thought was the largest problem or challenge for the community. 

The top four issues of concern were safety (59 per cent), alcohol and drugs (57 per cent), housing (55 per cent), and financial stress (54 per cent).

Community Mental Health Australia CEO Bill Gye said the findings for Mareeba also indicated a lack of digital infrastructure was available to some residents which could have implications on how people accessed mental health support. 

The survey revealed 20 per cent of respondents did not have access to a computer and 24 per cent reported they did not have access to the internet with sufficient speed and data.

“The disadvantage around lack of digital infrastructure is one of the highest we have found in the country, meaning that for many people online mental health supports are not a useful option,” Mr Gye said.

People Connectors from Mareeba Community Centre, who partnered with CMHA, went door to door between February 2022 and May 2022. 

Manager for the ACDC Project in Mareeba, Ashlee Ellis, said the exercise was effective in gaining an insight into community needs and she hoped that the information gained through the survey could be used in future strategic planning. 

“This survey and the ability to door knock and speak to our community has been a fantastic learning and allowed us real view into people’s needs,” she said. 

“I would hope this information can be used by us and other organisations to strategically plan to meet evidenced need.”

People Connectors who spoke with householders about their mental health and wellbeing also distributed information about the free support services available in their area. 

The ACDC Project is being implemented in communities across all states and territories of Australia to improve wellbeing and collect important data with the assistance of the Centre for Social Impact. 

The final report of the ACDC Project, along with recommendations for how the sector can better meet the needs of communities, is scheduled to be released in late 2022.


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