Cairns resident Greg Curtis-Hill knows firsthand just how the Cairns Head to Health centre will help people in North Queensland with mental illness and mental health challenges.
Mr Curtis-Hill understands the need for quality and safe mental health services because he lives with depression and thoughts of suicide.
And he looks forward to the day the Cairns Head to Health centre opens.
“I have depression and have been on and off medication for 15 years,” he said. “I also have thoughts of suicide and have had several non-fatal attempts of suicide.
“When I’m at my worst it’s debilitating. I can’t sleep and my brain is constantly thinking of the worst. This is when the suicidal thoughts come in and all I want is for it to stop.”
Aside from medication, Mr Curtis-Hill manages his mental health with the help of a psychologist and a general practitioner (GP), and a “support network of amazing friends who keep me safe”.
“I’m fortunate to be highly functioning and on a low dose of medication that doesn’t impact my day-to-day life,” he said.
“Working in the mental health industry has helped me gain the knowledge of where to seek the appropriate help or support that I need. I also understand being able to work and afford to pay for professional help and support is an advantage to me.
“That’s why a centre like Head to Health that offers a free service is vital for Cairns and the surrounding communities.”
When Mr Curtis-Hill heard about the Cairns Head to Health community consultation session held recently, he put up his hand to help.
“I am excited to be part of this process for developing a better mental health system for the entire community,” he said. “I look forward to the day the new Cairns Head to Health centre opens.
“Community consultation with people who have lived or living experience of mental illness have more of an understanding of what is missing in the community to best support them.
“This not only includes people with a mental illness, but also their carers, family, and friends.
“The consultation session was a great start and there were a lot of different points of view. People shared their stories and experiences, and explained what was needed to address the mental health gaps in our region.”
Mr Curtis said the Cairns Head to Health centre would help the community in many ways.
“Navigating the mental health system is the biggest challenge for people and their families,” he said.
“There is still a stigma attached to mental health and when families are faced with a child or relative who becomes unwell, they are reluctant to seek help for the shame it could bring the family.
“It will also help to reduce the impact on the hospital system and give another option for people to access care.”
Mr Curtis-Hill encouraged anyone with mental health challenges to keep reaching out.
“Never give up on seeking the right help or support you need to keep yourself well,” he said.
Cairns Head to Health will offer a safe and welcoming space for people to talk with someone if they, or someone they care about, are in distress or need help finding the right mental health support.
It will be a free walk-in service, and an appointment and referral will not be required.
Cairns Head to Health is a joint initiative of Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) and the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (HHS), and is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and State Governments.