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This is where we tell your stories, cover topical issues and promote meaningful initiatives.
A new face at CRANAplus, Laura Coldwell
In this article, we introduce you to the newest member of the CRANAplus Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, Laura Coldwell. A UK-trained mental health nurse, with experience in sexual and remote health, we hear about Laura’s ongoing journey to better understand culture to support her clients; learn about her role at CRANAplus; and the importance of looking after yourself.
We rewind a decade to when Laura was first introduced to remote health, taking on a nursing role in a mental health unit in Adelaide supporting patients flown in from remote communities. From Leeds to learning about the Australian bush, Laura describes her transition as “quite the culture shock”.
Laura set her focus on Indigenous health and providing culturally appropriate care, completing her post-graduate study of remote health in Alice Springs.
She has since spent time in the Kimberley and on the Cape, to better understand the needs and ways to support diverse Indigenous populations across the country.
“In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population it’s really interesting to see how [mental health nurses] work alongside traditional medicines, bush medicine, and traditional healers,” says Laura.
“[My early career was a] massive period of reflecting on my privilege as a white woman and learning about history. It was very, very eye-opening.”
At present, you’ll find Laura dividing her time between her specialty role of sexual and reproductive health nurse in Lockhart River in Far North Queensland, and her new role as a Mental Health and Wellbeing Educator at CRANAplus.
Laura joined CRANAplus at the beginning of the year as a Wellbeing Educator and she looks forward to drawing on her professional background, as well as her own experiences of the pressures of working remotely.
“I think when you come from a place of being able to relate to people and what they might be going through, things are more sincere and are probably a little bit more helpful. People feel a lot more validated than from generic education that you might find online about mental health,” she says.
“And I think that’s the beautiful thing about CRANAplus, right?”
CRANAplus Mental Health and Wellbeing team, including Bush Support Line staff all have experience working in remote locations across Australia. Laura says this is what makes CRANAplus support particularly valuable; having the ability to draw from lived experiences.
“There’s something to be said from getting education from people that have experienced those things.”
Remote health clinics require the support of many people and roles to function well.
CRANAplus Wellbeing Workshops are available to everyone involved in their operation, including nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, doctors, allied health, and administration and drivers.
“Obviously without all of those cogs, the wheel doesn’t turn,” Laura says. “All people, no matter their role – their experience is super relevant. Everyone deserves access to mental health and wellbeing support.”
Laura goes on to explain that looking after yourself when you’re working remotely is not always easy, but it is important.
“Your risk factors go up if you work remote. You’re more susceptible to experiencing mental health issues, increased alcohol and drug use,” she says.
A tip to begin is to look at the things you can control, such as organising planned leave, or scheduling an enjoyable activity for your next day off.
“What I tend to do is plan some things for the weekend when I’m home. Even something really small like going to the gym, or going out to the reef diving,” she says.
“Self-care is really important: for you, but also the wellbeing of your clients. As we say, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’.”
Register your workplace for a free Wellbeing Workshop, or browse the range of CRANAplus Wellbeing Resources available to download or order.