In 2017 Beyond Blue was commissioned by South East Melbourne PHN (SEMPHN) to develop, implement and evaluate a low intensity pilot peer support program - Beyond Blue Connect (Connect).
Starting as a pilot project, Connect was guided by the evidence that peer support is a valuable mode of service to community members who need short term, low intensity interventions.
Connect was evaluated to demonstrate both the demand for the program, and most importantly, the value of peer support in offering low intensity mental health services in Greater Dandenong.
A range of positive outcomes were identified through the evaluation, in particular the ability to engage the diverse community of Greater Dandenong.
Beyond Blue were thrilled when SEMPHN determined Connect would form part of their stepped care model for the Greater Dandenong, and Frankston and Mornington Peninsula regions.
The next steps for the program saw a transition to a community service provider in April 2019 to continue to deliver low intensity mental health peer support in the Greater Dandenong region, and extending later in the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula region.
The Connect program now forms the low intensity mental health model adopted by the SEMPHN in its Stepped Care Mental Health model for the South East region of Melbourne.
More information about Connect
Created through a co-design process, Connect taps into the skills and expertise held by those who have experienced depression, anxiety and/or suicidal thoughts, behaviours and related life events.It connects people with mild depression and anxiety with peers who have had a personal experience of these conditions themselves, to share their stories of recovery.
These conversations help participants to understand how they are feeling, define what is important to them for their wellbeing, and discuss how they can achieve this and decrease emotional distress including through self-management, increased connections to community and understanding and navigating the health care system.
Connect focuses on providing peer support to community members directly, on the telephone and online. The program empowers people to connect with formal and informal supports by providing compassion, guidance, encouragement, motivation and follow-up. It is a holistic approach to improve wellbeing focused on all aspects of an individual’s life, to identify needs and priorities that are based on participant values and beliefs.
Connect may be all that a person may have needed, or a starting point, a complementary service, or assistance to transition from a clinical service. The service is flexible, community-member centred and tailored to the needs of community members and the style and modality of contact was responsive to current needs and may have included some of the following:
- Social connections
- Support coping
- Support planning
- Support problem solving
- Safety support
- Suggesting resources
- Suggesting appropriate services/programs
- Facilitating linkages.
Connect supported over 500 people in it’s first 18 months of delivery, over 90% of people supported in the program were from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who had positive experiences interacting with the program.
The independent evaluation of the program revealed that Connect was the first program nation wide to offer low intensity mental health peer support to members of culturally diverse backgrounds using culturally competent and safe strategies.