On Monday, dignitaries officially opened WA’s fourth Head to Health centre – in Armadale. The first opened in Midland last year, and two others – in Mirrabooka and Gosnells – opened earlier this year.
Head to Health is a federal government-funded initiative that fills the all-too-common void between emotional and mental distress and psychological treatment.
The wait is often protracted and agonising for too many Australians trying to access help for mental health issues.
The Head to Health centre is a free service operated by St John of God Social Outreach, where people can drop in without a referral or even a Medicare card, and speak to trained multidisciplinary counsellors or be supported while finding the service and help they need.
Head to Health Armadale will also eventually facilitate group counselling and free art therapy sessions.
The new centre on Church Avenue is open from 10am to 8pm seven days a week, and has already amassed a client list of around 20 since its soft launch at the end of last month.
Monday’s opening was attended by federal assistant minister for mental health Emma McBride who has a working history in the sector and understands the current deficiencies in the system.
“Many Australians continue to struggle to access the mental healthcare they need when they need it,” she said.
“What makes me optimistic is days like today.”
She said Head to Health centres are vital to communities “so that we don’t lose any more lives needlessly because people in need end up in crisis”.
Local elders Morton and Vivienne Hansen spoke some much-needed truth while welcoming everyone to country.
Uncle Morton said he was glad to be in a space where he was being heard – for too long his ancestors were unwelcome at hospitals and places of healing in this country – something which caused long-lasting emotional and mental anguish.
“Our people need to stand up and start telling the truth about what happened here in this country,” he said.
Vivienne Hansen said that the path to healing for many Aboriginal people involves empathy.
“When you’re working with our people, it’s important that you walk with us,” she said.
“May this space be blessed and provide lots of opportunities for our people in all walks of life to turn their lives around.”
The centre was co-designed with elders from the Champion Centre, and a group of 55 people from the wider community.
It was refurbished in a matter of 12 weeks from an already existing building, and features undulating wood motifs on the ceiling in the shapes of Armadale’s lake system. The centre has been specifically designed to be welcoming, with no sharp edges, and no reception desk; on entry, visitors are met by a peer support person with lived experience in mental and emotional hardship.
The Head to Health centres currently only cater to adult clients.
Assistant Minister Emma McBride said the government was currently working in collaboration with state governments to eventually roll out a similar network of centres for kids and youths.
“The Headspace network, for children and young people aged 12-25 continues to expand with 154 across Australia including 21 centres available to those seeking information, support and care across WA,” she said.
“To build on this vital support we are working in strong partnership with the states and territories to establish a new network of Head to Health Kids Hubs for children and families.”
Western Australia will have one Kids Hub. Procurement to engage a lead service provider and identify a location is underway, with phased services anticipated from July 2024.