Online peer support services are crucial for those living with mental illness in rural and regional communities, says SANE Australia
SANE Australia is shining a light on the importance of online peer support services as part of Mental Health Week 2018, from 7 to 13 October. The national mental health charity is seeing more and more Australians turn to mobile technology to access the support and mental health care they need to help overcome isolation and the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Throughout Mental Health Week, SANE Australia is placing a stronger emphasis on peer-to-peer support, encouraging people affected by complex mental illness – particularly those living in rural and regional communities – to visit the SANE Forums to get the support that they need.
The SANE Forums bring together the lived experience of individuals, families, friends and carers in a safe, anonymous and supportive environment. Monitored 24/7 by mental health professionals, the SANE Forums allow people to talk openly with others who understand their challenges and experiences, as well as offer support and insight, and share other resources to help break their sense of isolation.
While research shows that living in a rural or regional area does not result in a higher risk of mental illness, when mental health problems do occur, there is less support on the ground to help people in their time of need.
Jack Heath, SANE Australia CEO, says, “Lack of services, a culture of self-reliance, stigma and often having limited access to a busy general practitioner are all major barriers for people battling complex mental illness in rural and regional Australia.
“One in five Australians experience a mental health problem every year, yet half of these people do not receive the treatment and support that they need.
“We know that safe, online communities like the SANE Forums can offer hope and support to people who might not otherwise receive it. They also promote stronger social connections, help reduce stigma and discrimination and encourage help-seeking behaviour. One person’s struggle can offer hope and meaning to many others,” added Jack.
Launched in 2015, the SANE Forums have reached more than 250,000 people, many of those in rural and regional Australia where access to mental health support can be limited. Not only are they a vital resource for people with a lived experience of mental illness, they are also a critical support for carers and friends and family of those living with mental illness.
Jack Heath said there are 690,000 Australians living with complex mental illness, and for every one of those people, there will be at least five family members, friends, work colleagues or other people they know, who are directly affected by their condition.
“We know people who care for others who live with mental illness also face their own unique challenges. That’s why we’ve set up a carer’s forum for people to connect with other carers who understand their challenges.
“Mental illness is complex and it can often feel isolating if you don’t get the understanding and help you need from family and friends. The SANE Forums are a great way to connect with a supportive community, where you can ask questions and seek advice at any time of the day or night.
“Our forums have been integrated into the websites of more than 65 leading mental health organisations to provide a safe and anonymous online space for individuals, families, friends and carers with mental health concerns. Together, we are opening up a huge peer support community,” added Jack Heath.
Throughout Mental Health Week 2018 – and beyond – SANE Australia encourages Australians affected by complex mental illness to connect with each other on the SANE Forums, an anonymous and professionally moderated service that is accessible 24 hours a day.
Find the SANE Online Forums at saneforums.org
Anyone looking for information, support and guidance from mental health professionals can contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or helpline at sane.org from 10am-10pm AEST.
For anyone in crisis, call:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
- Mensline 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
About SANE Australia
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity working to support four million Australians affected by complex mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression and anxiety.