Community mental health support improving wellbeing for Canberrans

Australian Greens

ACT’s first Safe Haven service has led to better mental health outcomes for Canberrans during its first six months of operation.

Those who have visited Safe Haven have reported better mental health outcomes after using the service, with marked improvements to their subjective units of distress (SUDS) score. Safe Haven has provided 489 hours of support to Canberrans feeling distressed, lonely or isolated. The peer support workers at the service have delivered 570 sessions since opening its doors, with many clients returning for multiple sessions for continued mental health support.

The average SUDS score for people visiting Safe Haven for the first time was 65. That dropped to 44 at the end of their initial visit and this improved score was maintained throughout the next week, with clients averaging a score of 46.

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said the service provides an opportunity for people to seek help at an earlier point in their mental health journey before they feel the need to reach out to emergency or inpatient services.

“The Safe Haven space has meant Canberrans have more, and earlier, access to mental health support in the community and before they reach a crisis point,” Minister Davidson said.

“The results show that the Safe Haven has a positive impact on people’s mental health journeys. It is testament to the co-design process that we undertook, with people with lived experience and mental health professionals, to design and deliver this service. It shows the value and impact of early community-based intervention and strengths-focused recovery model of support.”

The service is managed by Stride Mental Health Ltd, which has extensive experience across the country in delivering mental health support.

Safe Haven is a free service that is open to all Canberrans aged 16 and over, including people in caring roles, who may be needing support for their own wellbeing.

It provides a warm, welcoming and non-clinical space where Canberrans experiencing emotional distress, mental health concerns, isolation or loneliness can seek mental health support. The staff at Safe Haven are peer workers who are available to support people to navigate their distress in a way that is meaningful to them.

It is located at the Belconnen Community Health Centre and is open from 3pm to 10pm, Tuesday to Saturday with no appointments required.

As stated by Stride CEO Drikus van der Merwe:

“Stride is excited by the impact of this service that has supported people to continue their mental health recovery in the community.

“We look forward to deepening our partnership with ACT Health Directorate and Woden Community Service so that we become an even stronger supporter of community mental health in Canberra.”

Quotes attributable Capital Health Network CEO Megan Cahill:

“As the ACT’s Primary Health Network, CHN was pleased to partner with ACT Health to commission Safe Haven. Safe Haven was the first new service to come out of the five-year integrated ACT Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

“I’m pleased to see the success of Safe Haven in providing a safe space for people experiencing high levels of distress and, if needed, helping to connect them to other services through a warm referral.”

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