Mick Easton bringing back ASIST, a Living works Program where people learn to apply a suicide intervention model
Mick Easton grew up in Port Macquarie, completing Year 12 in Canberra, then eventually joined the Royal Australian Navy aged 22. This move to the armed forces allowed him to experience life at sea, visiting many countries whilst earning an electronics trade at the same time.
He then spent 15 years between being based in Sydney and in various technology-based roles overseas but loved the idea of coming home from the ‘rat race’. Coming back to Port Macquarie was not a hard decision to make with family, friends, and the coastal life such a big drawcard. It is something that most Port Macquarie kids do.
He’s been back for 16 years now, gaining qualifications as a Credentialed Mental Health (Registered) Nurse and working across different roles within mental health services in Port Macquarie. He’s ready to give back and has started a new business “Mid Coast Mental Health Services (MCMHS)”
“MCMHS” are specialists and leaders in recovery-focused mental health services and supporting clients through some of their toughest days with complex issues.
Tell us a bit about “Mid Coast Mental Health Services”
Mid Coast Mental Health Services was born from the idea that service focus should be on the individual client's needs, no matter what stage of their journey they are on. This service delivery format gives us the freedom and flexibility to be more individualised and client-centric. Our approach is to provide multifaceted mental health nursing services across our local Hastings area, working closely with other health professionals and community organisations to improve accessibility and the quality of clinical services. The model of care employed by MCMHS is to allow people to overcome barriers such as accessibility, cost and quality of services.
With 55% of Port Macquarie respondents surveyed (Healthy North Coast) stating it was difficult to access Mental Health services, MCMHS provides local solutions for local needs from low-level support to critical interventions for people experiencing severe and complex mental health challenges. MCMHS service standards are grounded in meeting the Australian College of Mental Health Nursing (ACMHN) ‘credentialing’ process to ensure skills and registration are maintained to a high quality. Through having multiple access points, the MCMHS provides hope for clients to be able to have stepped care integration as they need it, or may not need, throughout the ‘ups and downs’ of finding wellness and fulfilment, managing symptoms and re-establishing themselves in the community. Collaborations across the local networks of mental health services begins with MCMHS providing services across the NCPHN funded ‘Mental Health Nursing Service (MHNS)’, Medicare and NDIS space to headspace and GP practices. We also have a focus on suicide prevention through the facilitation of the LivingWorks program ‘Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)’.
How can people access your service?
MCMHS works closely with GPs and headspace services, but most referrals go through the ‘Connect to Wellbeing’ intake service being supported by your local GP to assist with the referral process. Website bookings and registrations are in the works under www.midcoastmhs.com
Social media will also play a part in promoting the service events and general enquiries.
We hear that you are planning on bringing the Living Works program ASIST to Port Macquarie. Lifeline has not run the program for a few years now. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Having completed the safeTALK and ASIST workshops when I was a student RN doing practical hours with Lifeline, I can vouch for the structure and model that ASIST offers. As a fledgling mental health clinician, this training was instrumental for me in understanding what it takes to be in the moment with someone who is struggling and in crisis…. “the radar was turned on”.
Having these skills, that are designed to help every single person, no matter their motivation or experience, become aware of the signs and symptoms of suicidal behaviours is a must for a suicide safe community. I also recognise the efforts and professionalism of former ASIST facilitators in our area, especially Lee-Ann Foord, and now hope to emulate the 100+ workshops she facilitated. The more workshops we deliver the safer our community will be.
Tell us how you take time for yourself, during these times. Do you have any tips for us?
It’s funny the stories you hear from fellow mental health workers on how they cope in this pretty heart wrenching field. One thing that stood out for me after a shift in the Acute Mental Health Ward, was to remove my ID badge which signified I wasn’t at work anymore. I would then remove my uniform and head to the beach for a swim. The most important thing for me was to find solace in the clear, cool, saltwater.
Time alone was also important, not so much being away from people (LOL) but more that I was comfortable in my own space. Sometimes simple house chores were a great grounding tool.
During the first shutdown in March 2020, I used to walk down to my favourite local, Shelley Beach, with rainforest surrounding the track, sunshine poking through the canopy. I usually drove through it but now it took special significance due to slowing down… a mindfulness practice that I had lost due to being so busy.
The biggest tip I can pass on is to enjoy the small moments, enjoy hard work and a sense of accomplishment, enjoy small rewards and most of all is to enjoy the success of others…. That is key!!!
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