The Communities that Care Alpine Local Drug Action Team, in collaboration with Myrtleford Alpine Saints Football Netball Club, has created the MFNC Wellbeing Team to support the mental health of their community in regional Victoria.
The team is made up of club leaders, health professionals and other local services. The aim is to break down the stigma around talking about mental health, and for the club's players and supporters to know they are not alone.
In a region hit hard by bushfires and affected by the coronavirus pandemic, mental health support is crucial. As this partnership shows, often the best solutions come from locals who know their community best.
The idea began a couple of years ago when the Myrtleford Alpine Saints Football Netball Club invested in a mental health session called Out of the Locker.
The club identified they wanted to become more than just a place to place and train. They wanted to be a club who nurtures – players, coaches, supporters, volunteers and community.
Alpine Health was already part of an established LDAT at this time. The club approached the organisation to support their endeavours to develop the wellbeing team.
Lisa Neville, Health Promotion Officer at Alpine Health, contacted Senior Community Development Officer Janelle Gibson at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to discuss this focus.
The LDAT had already researched the Healthy Minds program, which is available for sports clubs in Tasmania through Good Sports program. Together, they worked on a plan to establish the Alpine Saints Myrtleford Football and Netball Club Wellbeing Team through the LDAT program.
The outcome will see reductions in harms from alcohol and drugs, and a culture that supports each individual on a holistic level – physically and mentally.
There are nine members in the team, who range from football co-coaches, the club president, board members, a local GP, a mental health nurse, a netball player, club members and local health services.
All team members have completed Youth Mental Health First Aid training and are committed to developing and implementing the wellbeing plan. The Wellbeing Team welcomes more members, but there is an expectation that they complete an accredited evidence-based program to build their capacity.
Ongoing support to members is also provided via self-care strategies and professional supervision.
October marks Mental Health Month, and the Wellbeing Team launched online to begin providing support through Facebook messenger and other channels. Once sport is back on in Victoria as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the team will get out and about, providing support at game days and other events.
T-shirts will identify team members, and locals will be able to approach for a chat about any concerns or issues they’re having. This could lead to a referral onto other services or resources that may be able to provide further support to the person seeking help.
The LDAT partners involved are Alpine Health, Myrtleford Alpine Saints FNC and Myrtleford P-12 College.