Profession: Mental health professional
MHPN Involvement: Broome and Derby Networks Coordinator
Based in: Broome and Derby, Western Australia
A fascination in people’s stories, and a desire to work with rural and remote communities lie behind Sarah Farrell’s profile as Coordinator of MHPN’s Broome and Derby networks.
Having been involved in the networks in the northwest since 2009, Sarah is a veteran by MHPN standards. She also finds the MHPN philosophy of interdisciplinary collaboration sits parallel to her own.
Albury-born Sarah initially studied journalism, but the desire to effect change at a grass roots and policy level persuaded her that social work was her vocation.
After graduating from Curtin University in 2003, she worked in Perth for several years before moving to the Kimberley in WA. She now splits her time equally between the Broome and Derby.
Remote primary mental health
Sarah moved to the Kimberley to gain some remote experience and for a life-style change. She is now a mental health professional with Boab Health Services, a non-government, not-for-profit organisation servicing the whole of the Kimberley region.
An enthusiastic response to MHPN’s initial thrust into the northwest saw separate groups form in Broome. Practitioners, she felt, were looking for the higher levels of peer support the MHPN model offered.
Distance brings testing conditions
Because of the remoteness of the territory, practitioners must travel great distances and work under testing conditions. This contributes to a higher turnover of staff compared to other parts of the country, making regular attendance at network meetings a challenge. For this reason Sarah has adopted a single session approach to her network meetings and has found it encourages new and visiting professionals to attend.
In Derby, Sarah encourages mental health para-professionals to become involved. While exposed to mental health issues through their jobs, they often lack professional training in the area, and for this reason the Derby network maintains a strong focus on community capacity building.
Exposure to skills and expertise
Sarah says the best part of her role as MHPN coordinator is exposure to a whole range of skills and expertise she can call upon at other times.
‘You meet people from various backgrounds who have different interests and skills who you can later pick up the phone to and say: “What do you think about this?” I think it’s using that network in a proactive way that I’ve really enjoyed, and the support aspects.
‘It can be quite isolating as a single practitioner going out to some of those areas on your own and working on some pretty complex cases. So the support aspect, and to be able to see that happening with other people as well, has been quite enjoyable,’ she says.