Mental health screening tool developed

Date published
23 Jul 2015

Otago Polytechnic nursing school and students collaborate with rural practice to develop mental health screening tool

A mental health screening tool for use in rural general practice has been developed by a group of year-two Otago Polytechnic nursing students and their tutors in association with Pleasant Point medical centre.

The project involved students Olivia Connor, Savanah Brady and Katheryn Campbell while on their clinical primary health care placement at the South Canterbury practice and was supervised by their lecturer Anna Wheeler, the polytechnic’s, principal lecturer Jean Ross and medical centre co-owner and Nurse Practitioner Tania Kemp.

The project also set out to demonstrate to both student nurses and rural communities, that when nurses work in collaboration with community residents and academic organisations they are in a strong position to improve health care, that is responsive and sustainable to local demand. A second tool was also developed on smoking cessation in shearing gangs, which Tania would also like to see used in rural practices. In developing the tools their research centred on the south Canterbury town of Pleasant Point with a population of 1278. The most common occupational group in Pleasant Point is “labourers” who include farm workers, some rural contractors and shearers. Adverse events such as drought and extreme storms have a significant effect on the mental health of farmers and there is extensive research to support this statement, along with the realisation that farmers do not regularly access health services.

“We have developed an effective and opportunistic mental health screening tool, to be used at general practice level, to determine the mental health well-being of this group in our community,” says Tania. The tool is designed to quickly screen all patients with a rural address or known rural connection regardless of the primary reason for visiting the practice. The desired outcome is the early intervention and referral of any patients in need of mental health support within the time constraints of general practice. A flow chart of community organisations with contact details for easy access and referral for the Pleasant Point medical centre has also been developed, as well as a generic poster to help highlight the issue of mental health for this population group to place in the waiting room.

“We anticipate this will provide patients with a comprehensive list of community resources that can help with mental health and rural support,” says Tania.

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