The New School of Arts general manager Skye Sear.
The New School of Arts general manager Skye Sear. Adam Hourigan

Our Healthy Clarence: The mental health conversation starter

MENTAL health was at the forefront of discussion at the July Chamber Breakfast at the Clocktower Hotel on Wednesday morning.

The Grafton business community was treated to presentations from New School of Arts general manager Skye Sear, Rural Adversity Mental Health Program coordinator Samantha Osborne and Clarence Valley councillor Debrah Novak on the subject. There has been a strong push for an increase in mental health resources in the Clarence Valley since September 2015. A steering committee formed and the result was the whole-community strategic plan Our Healthy Clarence.

"In a nutshell, the emphasis to date has been increasing the community's capacity to respond to people that might be in the early stages of mental crisis and mental health issues," Mrs Sear said.

"Sam Osborne, from the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, and Mark McGrath, from Cranes, have been instrumental in training over 300 community members so far in the skills that are necessary to respond to people that might be struggling."

Mrs Sear said the success of the Our Healthy Clarence plan relied upon the community being aware of mental health issues and the services that are available.

Part of that means being visible in the community and, as an example, earlier this week Ms Osborne and Cr Novak attended the Grafton Saleyards to engage with the rural community on these issues.

It also includes several new projects such as pop up drop-in spaces in Grafton and Yamba and Headspace, which will move into the Grafton Community Centre.

"We are really keen to talk to people at every level in the community, so having the opportunity to speak to the chamber about this is fantastic," Mrs Sear said.

"We're at the point now where the plan has been developed and in order for it to be effective and to mean something to people we actually need to get the word out about what is happening in the community.