Improving mental health

Mental illness affects around 20 per cent of Australians every year. Our two private hospitals, in Ashfield and Kogarah, specialise in providing high–quality and compassionate mental health care to treat mental illness, addictions, eating disorders and other challenges. As a leader in community awareness, education and support we offer an extensive range of in-patient and day patient programs, psychiatric support and 24/7 crisis support.

Conferences shed light on suicide and mental health concerns

We’re continuing to lead the way with suicide prevention education. Our 2018 Wesley LifeForce Suicide Conference was held in Proserpine in northern Queensland to support the communities who were impacted by Cyclone Debbie in 2017. The infrastructure damages have left a continuing mental health impact from the trauma residents experienced during the wild weather. The conference helped to shine a light on suicide and mental health during the aftermath of a natural disaster and increased awareness about the ongoing impact it has on a community.

In 2018 we partnered with the Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN), to hold the first western NSW Regional Suicide Prevention Forum in Dubbo. The forum brought together community members and suicide prevention specialists to instigate conversations about suicide prevention, mental health issues and building communities of resilience.

We also partnered with the Rotary Club of Sydney and hosted ‘Let’s talk—Mental Health and Suicide’ conference. Held at the Wesley Theatre in Sydney the conference heard from mental health experts and spokespeople including Wesley Mission CEO, the Rev Keith V Garner AM, celebrated rugby league footballer and now leading commentator Wally Lewis AM, National Health Commission CEO Christine Morgan, mental health author and Non–Executive Director for RU OK? Graeme Cowan and Australian medical TV presenter, Dr Andrew Rochford.

Expanding mental health support for older people

Transitioning to retirement can involve loss of independence and familiar community connections, which can result in feelings of grief and isolation.

Residents from Wesley Mission’s retirement villages positively engaged to one–on–one counselling with a mental health specialist. In response to this growing need, we’ve employed a second mental health specialist to continue our flourishing mental health work in Wesley Retirement Villages.

Along with one–on–one counselling support, in November 2018 we launched mindfulness and psychoeducation groups at Alan Walker Village, Frank Vickery Village and Wesley Taylor Village. On average six to eight residents participate in the monthly groups and we’re seeing residents build connections and learn new skills which enhances their confidence and overall wellbeing.

We’re strengthening our Wesley Retirement Villages staff to be equipped to support residents with their mental health. Our mental health specialist has delivered mental health training for 25 staff members, 19 Wesley School for Seniors students and 17 community members.

Brightening futures with laughter

Partnering with the Humour Foundation, elder clowns have brought joy into the lives of residents from Wesley Retirement Villages. For residents who are diagnosed with dementia or don’t have regular outside visitors, the elder clowns connect with residents through song and magic tricks to lift their mental health. The success of the program has seen non-responsive residents crack a smile or burst into laughter.

Partially funded by Rotary Club of Sydney, we also partnered with the Humour Foundation to produce three short video clips to talk about mental health, tackle cyberbullying and teach online safety practices to young people aged five to 11. Using entertaining clown doctors, the videos implement humour to open up conversations around understanding emotions and developing resilience when using the internet and sending text messages. The educational videos were shown throughout Wesley Out of School Hours, before and after school and vacation care centres and Wesley LifeForce Suicide Prevention Networks.

New eating disorder program includes mental health focus

We’re committed to finding new solutions to support those most in need. Director of Wesley Eating Disorders Centre at Wesley Hospital Ashfield, Professor Phillipa Hay has co-founded the first hospital treatment plan for eating disorder patients who are overweight or obese, which addresses mental health concerns.

HAPIFED (Healthy Approach to eight management and Food in Eating Disorders) is a 12–week program which uses the cognitive behaviour therapy—a form of psychotherapy focused on self-help strategies to change negative thoughts and behaviours—to treat high Body Mass Index (BMI) patients.

The cognitive behaviour therapy sessions are combined with a weekly supervised meal plan and discussions about emotion regulation, weight maintenance, appetite regulation, body image and exercise habits. While HAPIFED program is a weight loss program, it’s focused less on weight and more on the act of eating.

During the HAPIFED trial, out of eight participants, 75 per cent lost weight over the period and 75 per cent also demonstrated reduced eating disorder symptoms.

University research validates mental health training

Since 1995 Wesley LifeForce has reached over 30,000 people across the nation, including community members, aged care nurses and workers, medical practice staff, general practitioners, practice nurses and relationship counsellors through their suicide prevention training workshops.

We continually seek to improve the effectiveness
of our mental health training programs through conducting research.

We commissioned the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) at

Griffith University to undertake a two-phase evaluation of Wesley LifeForce Training.

Their research revealed that Wesley LifeForce Training is ‘robust and effective’ and both sets and meets international best practice standards for suicide training as a trusted leader in suicide prevention and intervention. They also concluded workshop participants can expect to increase their perceived capability, declarative knowledge, positive attitudes and willingness to intervene in suicide prevention once they undertake learning through our Wesley LifeForce Training courses.

Research and continued academic rigour to ensure outcomes

It is important to Wesley Mission not only to be doing all the good we can, but to ensure that we’re investing into those activities that achieve the greatest impact. Research and partnering with leading institutions is an important aspect of validating and continuously improving our programs.

A partnership with Western Sydney University to research mental health in older people is underway. The research will pave the way for more resources to be poured into supporting older people struggling with poor mental health.

We’ve launched a new research project with Melbourne University to evaluate Wesley LifeForce Suicide Prevention Networks and the results will be released in the 2019/20 financial year.

Supporting new cohorts, including Australian Defence Force veterans

Having a place to call home and a community to belong to are of the utmost importance to wellbeing. For many of our Australian Defence Force veterans, returning to ‘ordinary life’ and re-joining communities isn’t simple. Veterans as a cohort have too often been marginalised, many times because of the complex emotional, physical and mental health needs that can result from the burden of service.

Wesley Mission is pleased to be partnering with
RSL LifeCare to deliver Homes for Heroes—an existing program dedicated to supporting veterans who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, struggling with mental health, social isolation, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance addiction. Our combined approach is person–centred, trauma-informed and recovery-focused, and draws on our experience in delivering specialist homelessness services and clinical treatment in veteran-specific mental health programs.

Expanding our care in clinical services and retirement living

Our five-year strategic plan to June 2021 includes reviewing clinical facilities at Wesley Hospital Kogarah to increase the number of beds on offer, providing us with more opportunities to deliver world-class mental health care. We’re also exploring how we can meet the increasing needs of our ageing population in retirement by expanding our independent living units.

By investing into our infrastructure, Wesley Mission seeks not only to increase our capacity to adapt to the changing needs we see in our community, but to be better positioned to meet the totality of need for each individual client.

The fresh stream flows in Brooke’s life 

Suddenly, out of a blue sky

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