Better mental health support

Richmond Fellowship WA CEO Joe Calleja.
Richmond Fellowship WA CEO Joe Calleja.

The first of five Partners In Recovery (PIR) programs to be launched in WA is through Bentley-Armadale Medicare Local, which serves the South Perth, Victoria Park, Belmont, Canning, Serpentine Jarrahdale, Gosnells and Armadale areas.

Eventually, all Australian Medicare Locals will have the program.

Mental health service provider Richmond Fellowship WA is the lead independent agency involved.

Chief executive Joe Calleja said that with more than 35 years of experience in social services and mental health, he had seen the sectors’ limitations and the confusion surrounding mental illness.

‘Many support organisations aren’t mental health-specific and don’t understand what’s behind a person’s behaviour,’ he said.

‘When clients experience a lot of rejection, in the process they learn it’s better not to accept help at all and will force the rejection by being difficult, unco-operative, resistant.’

Mr Calleja said the episodic nature of this behaviour could put work attendance and attitude, and therefore income and housing, at risk.

‘I know people who have lost their jobs because of this sort of thing,’ he said.

‘Education and mentoring can help agencies understand these behaviours and they will be able to respond with more empathy.’

He said PIR would co-ordinate support services that until now had supported people in isolation, and allocate flexible funding to meet individual, short-term needs.

He said this would bring about systematic change.

‘I think the Medicare Local partners feel excited about being able to make a real difference in people’s lives’