Nelly in Orange, Australia – Chapter 4

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.

October 21, 2019

I am thinking about BC and the northern hemisphere, at this time of the year where the leaves on deciduous trees are changing color and falling off in various stages given the advent of fall. Here in Australia we have been experiencing spring with blossoms and trees budding over the last month. We have been fortunate to complete a number of bush hikes in and around the area. While hiking, one sees a lot of gum trees. I understand, that Australian gum trees are part of the eucalyptus family and there are many varieties of gum trees. What is interesting, is the kind that often occur in the bush in Australia, shed their bark rather than their leaves. Apparently there are some benefits to the same, but one of the risks is that they are more susceptible to fire. When hiking, the forest floor is layered with dry bark from these trees and one can’t help but think of bush fire risk, coupled with the heat that we are currently experiencing (it is 25 degrees here today in Orange).

Over the last week, I have met with various researchers in New Castle and the Central Coast connected to rural mental health research and integrated care. On Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kate Jackson, Director, Older People’s Mental Health Policy Unit, Mental Health Branch, New South Wales (NSW) Ministry of Health. NSW launched their second 10-year plan for Older People’s Mental Health in December 2017. The first 10-year plan saw the enhancement of acute and community-based services for older adults, particularly in rural areas to facilitate equitable access. What a wonderful way to provide appropriate mental health services and supports for this age group; a significant need everywhere given our aging population. Certainly something that we have seen in our research of mental health services and supports in rural communities in the southern interior of British Columbia. To read about the NSW Older People’s Mental Health services and their 10 year plan, please visit the website links included above.

This week, I am mired in relevancy screening and data extraction for our scoping review on interventions for mental health related to climate change. There is much more in the literature than I had initially anticipated. I will also continue to meet with various individuals in Orange and next week will be attending the Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium in Adelaide. Looking forward to various presentations, networking with others, and the opportunity to see Adelaide for my first time.

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