MindsPlus specialises in speedy, flexible psychology and counselling services for people in rural and remote areas. Consultations can be held over the phone or online, and appointments are generally arranged within 48 hours. All great news for mining families dotted across Australia and overseas. We speak to MindsPlus director Jane Dodding to discover more about MindsPlus philosophies and the services on offer:
Tell us about MindsPlus – the philosophy behind the business and why you set it up...
MindsPlus provides a prompt, convenient and effective psychological support to people living and working in rural and remote communities and their families. We focus on prevention, early intervention and enhancing mental wellbeing and strongly believe in providing people with as many options as possible, enabling them to choose the type of support which suits them best. This is why we have clinicians providing consultations in person, by telephone, online and videophone. We have a positive psychology philosophy using a variety of therapeutic techniques to assist people to build on their strengths and thrive by enhancing their resilience to life's inevitable demands.
Having grown up in rural and remote areas (including mining areas) in Australia, Africa and England, I understand the pros and cons of living in small communities and I am passionate about supporting those areas. I have a background in psychology, research (mental health/drug and alcohol) and management of programs dedicated to recruiting, retaining and supporting medical practitioners and their families in rural and remote Australia.
From my personal and professional experiences I know how difficult it is for people living and working in rural and remote regions to access professional supports compared to those in urban areas. This is not only inequitable but also means those in rural and remote regions often cannot access prompt support when they need it, if at all, which leaves them vulnerable - the problem can escalate with undesirable consequences which may have been limited or avoided if they had received support earlier.
Acknowledging the inequity of services, potential consequences and the desire to support rural and remote communities is why I decided to set up MindsPlus. I personally provide a drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) service accompanied by videophone consultations, in South Australia and have been visiting the same community for five years. MindsPlus works towards encouraging other mental health clinicians to work in rural and remote areas and has three other psychologists providing fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) services (two in mining communities) and others, including psychiatrist, social worker, mental health nurse and counsellors available to provide telephone and online consultations.
What is your experience in working with mining families and people in remote areas?
All of our clinicians have experience working in oil/mining/remote areas and have more than 30 years' experience collectively. Growing demand for our services, ongoing contracts and continual referrals from General Practitioners indicates that our services are well-received and respected. We find that clients in these regions are particularly appreciative of the support we offer which is encouraging and satisfying to know we make a difference to people's lives.
Apart from our professional experience, most clinicians also have personal experience in mining or remote areas. For example, one of our clinicians has had many years' experience working as a mental health nurse in a GP surgery in Aberdeen, Scotland. Here she offered psychological support to oil industry workers and their families. Aberdeen is known as the "oil capital of Europe" - it is a city which has been at the forefront of European oil exploration and has seen people fly in and fly out to work since the 1970s. In addition to this she has had 14 years' experience as the wife of an FIFO oil industry worker, relocating to Australia with two young children seven years ago.
In your experience, what are a few of the major issues for mining families?
There are many positives as well as challenges for mining families. Focussing on the challenges: the work environment and lifestyle associated with working in the mining industry can have an emotional burden on workers and their loved ones. Some of the well known issues include:
- disruption to shared family, social, and community activities (particularly for FIFO workers)
- the stresses of relocation
- relationship challenges
- decision making
- repeated partings and reunions and the process of adapting and readapting to two environments (his work life, her single life at home, and their joint life together)
- parenting responsibilities and parental roles
- disrupted relationships with children, missing milestones and maintaining routine and structure
- increased drug/alcohol consumption
- job security
These demands can make people more vulnerable to depression and anxiety disorders. The symptoms and behavioural responses to these emotional states can include sleep disturbance, altered appetite, poor concentration, irritability, difficulty making decisions and increased drug and/or alcohol consumption. These responses to the lifestyle challenges faced by mining families are understandable and normal but none-the-less distressing. These conditions can be treated, and more importantly, prevented when support is gained earlier rather than later. The prevention of the progression of illness is desirable for all involved with that person because their emotional distress places a further burden on those close to them.
What services do you offer to mining families?
MindsPlus offers telephone and online consultations to mining families from anywhere in Australia or overseas. There are three main issues that make it difficult for mining families to access professional support when required. Firstly, often there are limited or no professional services in the isolated areas where people are working and living, and associated with this lack of service is waiting times to get an appointment. Secondly, fear of being stigmatised or the perception that it is "weak" to consult a mental health professional limits some people from seeking help. This can be especially pertinent in small communities where maintaining privacy regarding appointments with professionals can be problematic. In our experience this can deter people from accessing the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) offered by the mining company. Thirdly, the daily demands facing both workers and their spouses (who are often parenting alone for periods of time) can make it difficult to attend appointments during business hours.
To address these issues, MindsPlus offers discreet telephone and online psychological support from anywhere in Australia or overseas. Clients receive an appointment within around 48 hours and we offer flexible appointment times (including out of business hours) at the location of their choice. We also have flexible fee structures and can match the client's needs with clinical expertise.
How does the phone and online counselling work?
Consultations are generally 60 minutes, however 30-minute sessions are also available if more convenient. The consultations can be paid for individually or in a package at a reduced cost to provide flexibility. This service is based on a user-pays system which can be purchased privately or by a third party on behalf of the client.
Any other information you'd like to provide?
Appointments with MindsPlus can be made by calling 1300 312 202 or visiting www.mindsplus.com.au.