Social media is again spearheading innovation and the breaking down of barriers, this time with the launch of Rural Mental Health (Rural MH), an initiative set up by four advocates seeking to tackle the stigma and lack of resources for mental health in rural Australia.
Rural MH is a fortnightly tweetchat launching on Wednesday 6 April that discusses rural mental health issues in local communities. The first chat will take place from 7.30 – 9.00pm AEST and will focus on -mental health in your community'.
Chris Pycroft, spokesperson for Rural MH, says that new technologies mean that anyone with a passion for an issue can now make a difference and connect with communities.
'We know from our participation in previous social media chats that regular discussions can connect communities and start addressing solutions," Pycroft said. 'Social media can play a vital role in rural and remote areas by allowing a wide range of people to take part in discussion in real time. Regular online chats can allow for different perspectives to be shared by people from all over Australia.
'We hope Rural MH will play a role in increasing awareness for the issue, and will hopefully see community support and services increase as a result."
Rural MH has been established by Chris Pycroft (former youth ambassador and now staff member for the Inspire Foundation), Briony Walker (social media staff for Headspace), Tom Whitty (Communications Officer in the agriculture industry and co-founder of AgChatOz), and Alison Fairleigh (Business Development Officer for the Australian Agricultural College Corporation), a team which Pycroft says has key advantages. Although the founders are not health care professionals, they believe their work shows that anyone can play a role in contributing to a field they are passionate about.
'Teaming up with Alison, Briony and Tom on this initiative is fantastic, as we each have something different to bring to the table. Each of our experiences around mental health is distinctly different, and with each of us being located in different states and territories across Australia, we (along with those who we have consulted with) can truly bring an Australia-wide perspective to the table," Pycroft said.
Alison Fairleigh, who is located in North Queensland and has recently been affected by natural disasters in the state, hopes that Rural MH grabs Australia's attention and can demonstrate the necessity of improved health services in rural areas.
'As someone living in a rural and remote area, I have experienced first-hand the positive influence social media has in providing support to otherwise isolated people and how it can be used to raise awareness and get information out," Fairleigh said. 'Rural MH is one way we can address the issue of isolation & the lack of mental health services available in rural Australia."
Rural MH live chats will be hosted through Twitter fortnightly commencing Wednesday 6 April 2011 from 7.30 – 9.00pm AEST. To join the conversation, tweet using the #RuralMH hashtag.