A NEW app has been launched by Upper Hunter Community Services (UHCS) in a bid to offer people better access to mental health resources in the region.
The unveiling of Healthy Minds Upper Hunter on Wednesday night was extremely timely, following a recent ACM article, which stated Muswellbrook doctors were now seeing more residents with stress and wellbeing issues than sore throats or the flu.
About 100 community members, including Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and Upper Hunter Shire mayor Wayne Bedggood, attended the function at the Muswellbrook RSL Club - and everyone left the presentation thoroughly impressed.
In a special video message, Aberdeen Tigers captain Daniel Hoogerwerf, Muswellbrook Healthy and Well local coordinator Carly Hughes and counsellor Graham Jackson also endorsed the initiative.
Healthy Minds Upper Hunter contains localised mental health services, emergency services, crisis hotlines, GPs and hospitals with direct calling and website access, as well as national organisations.
It also features a few signs and symptoms of poor mental health; along with staying well and recovery tips, too.
"We're very excited as we feel it will have a positive effect on the community," said Jessica Dallah, of UHCS, who was heavily involved in the concept.
"The aim of the app is to bring together all the information for residents to easily access in one place.
"It's super basic and straight forward - we tried to keep it as simple as possible.
"We developed the app and website because it was identified that people in the Upper Hunter didn't know where to look for mental health support.
"So, it's specifically localised to our community.
"Mental health and wellbeing, especially in the current circumstances of the drought, is definitely being impacted.
"Many residents are feeling overwhelmed and severe ongoing stress can be a risk factor.
"With the development of Healthy Minds Upper Hunter in the form of an app and website, we believe it will help everyone bridge the gap on accessing information.
"By simply having a place to start can make the process a little less overwhelming.
"I have to acknowledge our partnership with BHP Mt Arthur, as the ongoing support through the Community Capacity Building (CCB) program is greatly valued.
"Without their assistance, we could not achieve this."
UHCS manager Mel Atkinson admitted the development of the app - and website - was a real labour of love for the team.
"The idea was first floated in 2015; as a brochure," she said.
"We have an open door at UHCS; if we are not able to help, we always do our best to ensure we link people with the service or aid they need.
"Over a period of time, the CCB team noticed and monitored enquiries on the number of locals looking for support surrounding their mental health.
"So, there was a recurring theme.
"It was recognised that they did not where to begin - this has been the driving force behind the project.
"Community conversations and mental health professional consultations took place during 2016.
"It was at one of these brainstorming sessions that a member from Hunter Valley Police District mentioned 'wouldn't it be good if one day this was digital?'
"The vision then evolved.
"I'll admit that the first thing we did was google 'how do you build an app and how much does it cost?
"The process around the development [of an app and website] was a new experience and one in which Jess, Jesse [Court] and Bec [Eveleigh] approached with great enthusiasm.
"But, thankfully, everything eventually fell into place.
"We actually tested it two months ago, so we'd already heard great things.
"Although the feedback was positive, it gave us a bit of time to make a few changes.
"At the end of the day, Healthy Minds Upper Hunter is for the community."
The free app, accessible across all device mediums, is available in the App Store and on Google Play.