Improving community support for people living with mental illness in Macedon Ranges

Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Action Group (MRSPAG) has developed a community support model to better support people living with mental illness or suicidal ideation in the community.

What is a community support model?

For people living with mental illness or poor mental health, there can sometimes be a lack of ‘non-medical’ or community support available. This might be social, emotional or practical support, and can include peer support. For example,

  • People might be looking for a safe and friendly chat with a person who has a shared experience of mental health (a peer) – someone to talk to, someone who will listen in a non-judgmental way. This might be a weekly ‘coffee and conversation’ group that meets locally or it could be one-on-one conversations
  • People having difficulties coping or feeling unwell might need some practical help with day-to-day activities, such as meals or gardening or walking the dog
  • Some people might need assistance in making appointments or getting to appointments
  • Some people might need some support to make community connections or join activity groups and might appreciate a friendly companion to attend the library or community centre or men’s shed (or other group) with them
  • When people are in crisis, or following a hospitalisation, they might want a safe and supportive peer to talk to who can listen and value them; other people might need some practical support if they need to be hospitalised (for example, accessing some pet-sitting during their hospital stay)

What’s happening in the Macedon Ranges?

MRSPAG is exploring ways this kind of support can be delivered using the wonderful generosity of the community and the best resources available – ‘our community caring for our community’.

Between December 2019 and March 2020, MRSPAG worked with the Macedon Ranges community, and in particular with people with lived experience of mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts, to develop a model that could be trialled. Larter Consulting supported MRSPAG through consultation and co-design.

The development process comprised:

  • Lived Experience Project Advisors who provided review and advice at key decision-making phases
  • Conversations and interviews with people with lived experience
  • Local support needs survey
  • Interviews with local services, organisations and other stakeholders
  • Interviews with relevant support models being implemented elsewhere

We acknowledge the significant contributions made by local people with lived experience, which includes individuals, families, carers and people bereaved. Their honesty, generosity and insights contributed directly to the recommendations for the model and for funding bodies.

Recommended volunteer community support model for Macedon Ranges

We summarise the recommended model in two ways below:

Diagram 1: Summary of all the components required to deliver the model

Diagram 2: Summary of the pathway for an individual accessing support

Diagram 1

The key recommended components of the model include:

  • A local peer partner position
    • this person: will have lived experience of mental illness and provide empathetic and compassionate one on one support and information on aspects of living with mental illness (including self-help resources); this peer navigator can connect people to programs or services, and provide information about what is available in the local community; can link people with local volunteers to meet practical and social needs
  • Community connector and volunteer service
    • this service will either provide connection to community activities and/or provide 1-1 matching with a community volunteer or community companion to meet practical or social support needs
  • Peer-to-peer mutual support activities (for example, social groups, or friendships)

This diagram below provides a summary of the concepts:



Or download a copy for viewing: MRSPAG Volunteer community support model diagram.

Diagram 2

This diagram demonstrates the perspective of an individual accessing support and describes the support available from the Peer Partner and the Community Connector and the links between them.



Next steps and more information

MRSPAG will work with the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Site governance group to identify next steps and potential funding opportunities.

If you have any questions; or would like to be kept informed about the progress of this model; or interested in supporting its implementation if/when it is funded; or generally interested in MRSPAG’s activities and getting involved more broadly, please contact: Annie Rowland, MRSPAG Chairperson, at

This work is one of several projects being funded by North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network through the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Trial Site. The trial site is one of twelve in Victoria. Primary Health Networks and Victorian government are funding each site to lead efforts to reduce suicide rates in local areas.

For further information about the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Trial site, please contact Deepa Patel at

If you need help now

Contact Lifeline:

  • Telephone 13 11 14
  • Webchat (7pm-midnight)
  • SMS text service on 0477 13 11 14 (6pm-midnight)

For a list of local mental health services and support: Macedon Ranges mental health resource flyer

Supported by