Lithgow's newest mental health service, which began operation at the end of June, was officially launched on Wednesday, July 10.
Health and service providers gathered at the Lithgow Workmen's Club to celebrate the beginning of the NewAccess service, which is offering a free, early intervention coaching service to Lithgow people. The telephone based service offers a six week coaching program for people who have found themselves struggling with anxiety or depression.
The program, which already operates in several other Central West locations including Bathurst and Dubbo, has a 70 per cent recovery rate for participants, Beyond Blue's Sam Rosevear said.
"When you are down, the key is to seek help. Blokes like me can be hopeless and take a long time to get over our pride and actually reach out and seek help, and some women too," he said.
"But it's an act of courage, not an act of weakness."
Mr Rosevear said the program was a pioneering one and "in many ways it is a missing link in Australia's mental health system".
The self-guided coaching service is being delivered by Lithgow coaches, Prue Mogg and Shelley Ryan, who Mr Rosevear said brought "rich life experiences" to the roles.
Ms Mogg, a former TAFE teacher, said she had previously been through the NewAccess program herself for management of stress and anxiety with great success.
Ms Ryan welcomed the introduction of the service, after seeing many people within the local community struggle with their mental health.
"Lithgow has needed this service for a very long time and we've been overlooked in a lot of aspects, because we're between Bathurst and Penrith," she said.
"I'm really excited that we've finally got something that people can now access."
The challenges for people in seeking help around the Lithgow region included stigma, lack of funds for specialist care and isolation.
"There's definitely been a gap in mental health services... and high rates of suicide is a very tragic issue affecting Lithgow," Ms Mogg said.
"There's a lot of under or unemployment here which presents its own mental health issues."
The program, which was funded by the Federal Government, has a particular focus on assisting communities affected by drought.
"Whilst we have all seen a little bit of rain and we've seen a few flushes of green, NSW is still in drought and certainly for this area, we know the farming communities remain seriously affected by drought conditions," Wentworth Healthcare CEO Lizz Reay said.
"The financial uncertainty and stress for locals due to the current drought conditions can have lasting effects on people's mental health.
"It's absolutely vital that there's support available to assist people during tough times."
Marathon Health Acting CEO Garry Burton flagged more mental health investment would be coming to the region. The aim, he said, was to implement a stepped approach to care, which began with the opening of headspace Lithgow for young people, the NewAccess program for low level support and finally offer the Strong Minds program, which offered a higher level of support.
"We don't have that in Lithgow as yet but we are certainly looking to have it here down the track," he said.
Lithgow City Council mayor Cr Ray Thompson said he was "ecstatic" to see the influx of mental health services coming, after a hard lobbying effort.
He said he welcomed the announcement that local people "that understand our community will doing the coaching".
"I thought that was amazing... that we've got people that do understand and have been through that process of [dealing with mental health issues themselves] and have come out the other side and are now coaching, it's great really," he said.
Cr Thompson said he expected the telephone service to be a hit.
"Lots of people are nervous about being seen going to a psychiatrist or something like that, especially in a town where everybody knows everybody," he said.
"Being able to pick up the phone will be a great advantage."
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