In 2016, Lifeline Gippsland published statistics on suicide deaths in Gippsland. Between 2003 and 2012, there were 320 deaths in our communities, and it was found that twice as many farmers die by suicide compared to other occupations. Women in Gippsland have a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety over their lifetimes when compared to other Victorian women.
It’s obvious: more needs to be done to address mental health here.
Gippsland is an amazing region to live in, and we are fortunate to have excellent psychology and wellbeing practitioners based in or servicing our area. Yet many of these services are heavily booked with extensive waiting lists or are difficult to access due to a lack of transport options. We also need to address the social stigma associated with receiving help, especially psychological assistance.
According to the Australian Medical Association, mental health and psychiatric care are grossly underfunded when compared to physical health. Mental health conditions are prevalent in the broader community, with nearly half of adult Australians experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime. When comparing the burden of disease calculations of mental health with physical health conditions, the mental health sector receives less than half the funding.
Aware of the shortcomings, provisional psychologist and now entrepreneur, Tegan McKay, has launched The Mindful Hub (themindfulhub.com.au). Her aim is for The Mindful Hub to become the “Ultimate platform for your online psychology and wellbeing appointments, providing all Australians, especially those in regional areas, with more affordable and accessible consultations”. Tegan hopes to make it easier for you to improve your mental, emotional and physical health, and reduce the fear of visiting a practitioner, by facilitating an online link with therapists, so you can talk to them while you’re at home.
You’ll need a secure internet connection, but The Mindful Hub acts as a confidential portal to nationally accredited practitioners, such as psychologists, nutritionists, personal trainers or meditation classes, no matter where you are.
It’s in learning more of Tegan’s background that you begin to understand why she’s so passionate about improving access to mental health services. Tegan spent most of her childhood on a dairy farm in Newry. Then, as a seven-year-old, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune musculoskeletal disease, relapsing three times. Memorably, in 1999, Tegan and her family were granted a ‘wish’ from the Starlight Foundation to visit Disneyland Park and Universal Studios in California (see below). Family holidays had been almost non-existent as her dad was a dairy farmer and her mum worked at an accounting firm. Happily, Tegan became medication-free in mid-2001 and was officially declared in remission in 2006 as an 18-year-old.
Six years later, due to an injury from a car accident, Tegan needed to find a new career, which is when she began her path to becoming a psychologist. She is beginning her provisional psychology internship, which is equivalent to the fifth year of the six years required to become a registered psychologist in Australia. In her first year of studies, Tegan learnt about telehealth mental health services.
Understanding that with improved online medical services she could have avoided the frequent trips to specialists in Melbourne as a child, and with her experiences from growing up on a farm in rural Gippsland, Tegan knew that if the opportunity arose, she wanted to create an online platform for a variety of wellbeing services.
Early in 2018, Tegan began to develop The Mindful Hub. Later in that year, the Telehealth Guidelines for Psychology Services Medicare Rebates were increased through the Better Access to Mental Health Scheme.
Recently, The Mindful Hub was announced as a Wellington Shire Finalist for the Startup Gippsland program. In all, 46 startups were selected for this innovative mentoring program from over 110 applications. Each finalist has weekly one-on-one sessions with their mentor, as well as weekly masterclasses and monthly networking events. The culmination of the 12-week program was a gala event that provided the finalists with the opportunity to share their new knowledge, celebrate and pitch their business to potential investors.
As Tegan builds community awareness of The Mindful Hub and the much-needed services that it offers, she has contracted some excellent, nationally recognised mental health and wellbeing practitioners for the platform, including psychologist Helena Rontziokos, nutritionist Madeline Pilgrim (a Gippsland local), meditation teacher Cassandra Roberts and personal trainer Sarah Garrett (a Gippsland local), and she aims to continue to add more services as bookings increase. She’d like to continue to add different fields to the platform, so it may soon also include speech pathologists, exercise scientists and more.
Tegan and The Mindful Hub are a terrific example of building on personal experiences to create a startup that can benefit the Gippsland community and everyone that calls regional Australia home.
Tegan asked that we note that anyone can access psychology services without a referral, however, to be eligible for Medicare rebates for up to 10 sessions through the Better Access to Mental Health Scheme, a GP or specialist referral is required.