Nelly in Orange, Australia – Chapter 2

We are excited to be connecting with Dr. Nelly Oelke throughout the course of her study leave in Australia! Dr. Oelke is an Advisory Committee member for the Rural Health Services Research Network of BC and will be continuing her work on exploring the mental health impacts of climate change events in rural communities among men and adults who are over the age of 50 at the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health. Stay tuned at the end of every month to learn more about the evolution of her work in Orange, Australia.

September 23, 2019

I arrived in Orange, New South Wales, Australia on September 16th in the afternoon. Our trip was uneventful and the flight into Orange was on a smaller plane and rather bumpy coming in due to a fair bit of wind. It was great to fly over the area and see first hand a bit of what the countryside looks like. We settled into our AirBnB and the next morning I was off to work at the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH). I met many of the staff and look forward to working with them and learning about their numerous projects over the next 2½ months. They are a great bunch assisting with sorting out connections to the internet, inviting me for walks at lunch, and finding a bicycle for me to ride to work.

The weather in Orange has been a mix of nicer and cooler weather. The second day here rained substantially but for folks who live here, it was just a drop in the bucket given the years of drought they have experienced. The rain was great, and the land simply needs more of it.

The surrounding landscape with sheep that are grazing in the fields.

The CRRMH provides programming through the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMPH) and other initiatives. RAMPH is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health, managed by CRRMH and delivered in partnership with rural state local health districts across the state. The program has been in operation for over 10 years connecting individuals in rural communities to resources for mental health and well-being via RAMHP Coordinators in various rural communities throughout the state of NSW. RAMHP works with individuals experiencing various adversities such as, but not limited to drought, isolation, and suicide to address mental well-being and build resilience. There are many resources available on the website that you may wish to peruse. One that I found interesting and would like to highlight is the How are you going? poster that is used widely by the Centre in its community-based work.

Outside the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health in Orange, Australia.

My research for my Killam Research Fellowship has also been moving forward. I am in the midst of screening abstracts for a scoping review of the literature focused on identifying community-based mental health interventions used to address mental health concerns related to natural disasters (pre-, during, and post-disaster). I am also working on an environmental scan of programs/initiatives in Australia and Canada to address mental health and well-being related to climate change. I have pretty much completed the Canadian scan with unfortunately few programs/resources identified. A few resources that may be of interest to folks are the following:

Although these are not directly related to mental health, they are about building resilient communities. These resources were developed in urban areas but adapted from earlier work on developing resilience in rural communities. I look forward to sharing more information about different components of this work throughout the next couple of months.