The Woden Community Service marks a decade-long walk to better mental health outcomes

Transition to Recovery team image

Some of the current and former people involved in getting the Transition to Recovery program up and running: (back row) Donald Wilson, Chris Redmond, Paul Russell, Rod Mallinder, Keith Mahar; (front row) Jayne Tandl, Prue Gleeson and Maree Fish. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The period of care in which a person suffering from an acute mental health episode is most at risk of suicide is when they leave the hospital.

This sobering fact has driven a decade-long program dedicated to supporting people as they make the transition from care to society through a series of practical psychosocial measures.

The Woden Community Service’s Transition to Recovery (TRec) program is literally a life-changing and life-saving service, and one that operates seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

According to mental health transitions manager Prue Gleeson, TRec works closely with the Step Up, Step Down facilities and the clinical teams at ACT Health to support people who may be vulnerable when they return home after a period of care.

The great advantage of working with the clinical team from ACT Health is that they can respond quickly and easily to risks and identify if and when people may need additional support.

Originally, TRec was created after a student project that identified that people who were being discharged from the hospital could not access practical support.

Prue explained that they also knew that the few days after leaving the hospital or a psychiatric institution after an acute episode of mental health is when someone is at the highest risk of suicide. This is because for many people who have experienced extreme distress, the cause has not disappeared when they return home.

“They often go back to where the distress started and things may or may not have changed – especially if the underlying issues have not been resolved,” she said.

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What really sets Prue apart with the program is that it allows the team to be there almost always to help, and it reduces the stress of having to go directly to the hospital system.

“We go along with people with something they themselves have identified, so it’s very much guided by what that person needs and needs at any given time,” Prue continued.

Usually, a team member will connect with someone before discharge to communicate with them, ask what they want to work on, and advise them on the enveloping support they will receive.

The support provided can range from supporting a homeless person to finding a place to live, securing employment or education, and linking them to resources and programs such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We also have mindfulness and yoga groups or other kinds of social groups that we can connect people to,” she explained.

Other times, it’s simply about accompanying someone to appointments and helping people adjust to long-term routines.

TRec runs for 12 weeks, but Prue says it is important to ensure that long-term therapeutic support is established for the future.

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CEO of the ACT Mental Health Community Coalition, Bec Cody, says these wraparound services are great for reducing the burden on the already overstressed acute mental health system.

“Being able to provide this service means people can come in and get the help they need for the stage of their journey they are on, instead of waiting until it gets more serious – which again puts additional stress on the individual, their family, and the system, ”she said.

However, she warns that society’s mental health sector continues to experience enormous pressure, and it is a pressure that has only grown since the beginning of the pandemic.

“There is never enough money and there are always a lot of people trying to access the services,” she explained.

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