Research to improve our first response to mental health calls

22 February 2024

Working on the frontline of mental health response, Jessica (Jess) Pulis knows how crucial the right tools and resources are for health professionals and the people they look after. That’s why she joined the Health Translation Queensland (HTQ) Mental Health Collaborative Group.

When Jess started her career as an occupational therapist (OT) in vocational rehabilitation, she never imagined that she would be working in the mental health space. But through her OT work, she realised she was drawn to psycho-social elements of function, leading her to additional study and a career she loves in acute care.

“I have 2 roles in Mackay with Queensland Health. The first is as a mental health co-responder, where I partner with a paramedic to respond in person to emergency mental health crisis calls,” Jess explained.

“The program has had encouraging results—reducing the number of people going to hospital by over 70% in Mackay and helping connect people with community support.

“My second role is as the clinical lead of the Mackay Crisis Support Space, where we use a peer-support approach to care for people experiencing acute mental health crises.

“I like the fast pace of both roles—you have to make quick decisions with your colleagues and the person in need, and it’s good to see how you can have an impact,” Jess said.

Through her work at the crisis support space, Jess met several researchers who introduced her to the new HTQ Mental Health Collaborative Group.

“I have collected data for research before, but I don’t understand the whole process, and I’m curious about how clinicians like me can get involved in improving the tools and resources we have.

“There’s a good assortment of people in the group—each brings a different perspective to how we can improve outcomes for people experiencing mental health crises.

“Our first project is to co-create the Queensland Mental Health Collaborative Hub, a website to provide resources in education, training and research to mental health professionals and researchers.

“I hope we create a useful tool to support those working in the mental health sector.”

Jess also hopes to learn more about the research process as part of the group. She is interested in making research part of her career. She is currently studying for a Master of Mental Health and intends to complete a PhD next.

Learn more about HTQ’s Mental Health Collaborative Group.

Above: Jessica Pulis, Senior Occupational Therapist, Authorised Mental Health Clinician, Mackay Crisis Support Space | Mackay Mental Health Co-Responder, Queensland Health

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