NEW mental health hub HeadtoHelp in Sebastopol aims to help people navigate support systems to best meet their needs.
HeadtoHelp, which opened on Monday, comes from a federal government response last month to growing mental health concerns in communities during the pandemic.
The support service, based at Ballarat Community Health's Vickers Street base, will start as a phone hotline and develop into in-person consultations with mental health specialists.
Western Victoria Primary Health Network chief executive officer Rowena Clift said the service's focus was on integrating existing community services, not duplicating.
Ms Clift said the pandemic had put most people under stress, demand on mental health services was great and for many, reaching out to a mental health service for support might be something they had never done before.
Many people in the Ballarat may have never experienced mental ill-health before and are facing new challenges due to COVID-19Rowena Clift, Western Victoria Primary Health Network chief executive officer
"Mental health issues don't discriminate. Many people in the Ballarat may have never experienced mental ill-health before and are facing new challenges due to COVID-19," Ms Clift said.
"HeadtoHelp will provide a welcoming place for those people alongside anyone else who needs mental health and well-being support.
"The Ballarat community has been hit hard by the consequences of the pandemic including increases in unemployment and strains on local businesses taking their toll on many households. We are all living in extraordinary times.
"For many people, the ability to cope with circumstances and events they've never faced before is stretching their emotional and mental health and wellbeing."
HeadtoHelp has launched in 15 hubs across Victoria, including six in regional Victoria, from $29 million in funding. Sebastopol and Geelong will host hubs for western Victoria.
Hub are created to work alongside other state and federally funded mental health services in a no-cost session to help people find the right help.
Such services include youth mental health organisation Headspace and the Wellwayspsychosocial support program.
The hub does not offer crisis support.
For some people, this could be a chance to be guided to more information online.
For others, this could be a chance to speak to a counsellor about mental health for the first time or discuss about seeing a general practitioner or other community health services.
Ms Clift said this was a way to try and help the most vulnerable in the community during the pandemic.
The hub is available to anyone in the community, including those with and those without a mental health treatment plan from their GP.
Ms Clift said Western Victoria PHN had worked with hospitals and the Victorian Mental Health Pandemic Response Taskforce to identify Sebastopol as the best location for the hub.
Works to open the hub on Monday were made within four weeks of the federal government announcement and so, the hub would continue to adapt and develop services to meet community needs.
The hub is initially to be in place for 12 months.
Ballarat Community Health acting chief executive officer Darlene Henning-Marshall said it was crucial to have the best possible mental health and holistic supports in place during such unprecedented times.
Ms Henning-Marshall said the health service was committed to help ensure everyone felt safe.
To access HeadtoHelp, call 1800 595 212.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.
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