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Taking Mental Health to the Streets

A new approach that has taken mental health out of the clinic and onto the streets will be showcased by the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Aug. 31.

In a guest lecture, the innovator, clinical psychologist and commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr told an audience of Sydney mental health leaders how they can empower communities to improve mental wellness.

Dr. Evans has measurably improved the mental health of communities and lowered treatment costs in his native city of Philadelphia in the U.S. by taking solutions to the people rather than waiting for people to come for treatment. One community initiative, Healthy Minds Philly, engages whole communities to work toward better mental health at a grassroots level and empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own well being.

“We know that if we want to effectively reach people, we need to reach them in the neighborhoods and communities in which they live,” said Dr. Evans. “This approach has helped us to transform lives and communities, and make the behavioral health and intellectual disability systems more effective.”

One example is the mental well being tests offered free in local neighborhoods and train stations. For most participants, this results in a greater appreciation of the importance of maintaining good mental health. However, referrals are offered for those who indicate any level of distress or possible psychological disorder, while people whose screening indicates they may be at risk of suicide or self-harm are connected to immediate help and support.

“This is a vital opportunity for political and social planning leaders to see how successful community-based mental health strategies can be,” said NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Fenely. “Healthy Minds Philly showcases many of the things we expect to see in place in NSW before 2024: a strong commitment to prevention, early intervention and quality of life, and the understanding that fostering good mental health is everyone’s business.”

To learn more about mental health reform in NSW, read Living Well: A Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW 2014-2024. More about Healthy Minds Philly at www.healthymindsphilly.org. Click through to take a mental health screening or go to: www.healthymindsphilly.org/screening