NewAccess program on the North Coast

Brendan Koivu

Brendan Koivu

You might think helping people with depression and anxiety would be very different to being an ambulance officer, but according to Brendan Koivu, a mental health coach with beyond blue’s NewAccess program on the North Coast, his current job involves a very similar mindset.

“Being a paramedic was about solutions,” Brendan said. “Paramedics can’t solve everything, but when they arrive they’re thinking ‘Is there something we can do about this? Let’s do it now, let’s get started. And if not, let’s find the right service for you, let’s take you to hospital or wherever.’

“I really like that way of thinking. If there’s a problem we can do something about, let’s not wait. And this [NewAccess program] is very similar. We can’t address every problem, we’re far from the be-all-and-end-all of mental health, we’re primarily for people with depression or anxiety that’s not severe. But what we do is very quickly get into it. 

“Once we know what the problem is, not keep talking about it, let’s start addressing it and see if that works for you.”

Brendan is one of three mental health coaches with NewAccess who cover the area from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads.

Using phone, video or face-to-face contact, they provide low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy over six private sessions, employing proven, evidence-based strategies.

Issues such as procrastination, avoidance and catastrophising are addressed in small steps with a focus on trying different ways of thinking and behaving.

The service is free, does not require a referral from a GP, and the waiting list is short, with most people

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receiving an appointment within one or two weeks of their initial inquiry.

And the effectiveness is high, with a recovery rate of 74 per cent during the two-year pilot program that preceded the current third year of operation on the North Coast.

“What that means is basically 74 per cent of people who started our program, when they finished said ‘I don’t need any further support, I know how to look after myself now’,” Brendan said.

Supporting young people through the stresses of their final years at school and their early years at university is a particular focus for NewAccess, with the service on the North Coast expanding only a few weeks ago to include 16 and 17 year olds as well as adults.

The latest research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that one in four young people has a mental health condition, and according to Mission Australia’s 2016 Youth Survey Report, coping with stress, school and study problems topped the list of concerns among 15 to 19-year-olds.

NewAccess coaches  not only guide clients back to good health, but also enable them to identify mental health risks and give them the skills to manage symptoms in the future.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said NewAccess could provide invaluable support and resilience-building tools for students preparing for end of year exams and the transition to university or a career.

“We all struggle at some point in our lives whether it’s exam time pressures, relationship breakdowns or everyday issues with work and family, but support is available,” Ms Harman said.

“NewAccess supports people early so they don’t run into mental health crises down the track and it arms them with the tools they need to manage their mental health in difficult times ahead.”

To contact NewAccess on the North Coast, ring 1300 137 934 or visit http://ncphn.org.au/newaccess/