Network coordinator and mental health social worker Robyn McKinnon launched the Launceston Perinatal and Mental Health Network in June 2019.
Robyn has a special interest in perinatal and infant mental health and is passionate about her work in far flung locations like King Island and Flinders Island in the Bass Strait (northern Tasmania).
MHPN spoke to Robyn about interdisciplinary collaboration and what it's like to coordinate a MHPN network.
Why did you get involved as a coordinator?
Last year, I was invited to present at the Hobart Perinatal Mental Health Professionals Network on the topic of 'Perinatal Loss: Providing compassionate bereavement care for parents when the unexpected happens'.
As I prepared to come to Hobart it got me thinking: “Why don't we have a Launceston Perinatal Network?"
So I began talking to MHPN about trialling a meeting, kicking off with the same presentation I gave in Launceston as this was a particular topic I was passionate about; and I already had strong connections in the community of health professionals already.
I was overwhelmed with the response to our first meeting. Not just by how many people attended but also by how many others who couldn't make the first meeting wanted to be put on the mailing list for future meetings.
What do you like about coordinating an interdisciplinary network for mental health professionals?
It has been great as a private practitioner to become more connected with other disciplines who are like-minded professionals with a passion in the field of perinatal mental health.
In fact, at our second meeting a GP came up and introduced herself to me as someone who had been referring to me for many years, but until now we had never actually met in person. This was a nice way to cement connections and get a better understanding for each other's practices and skills.
It has also been a useful way to broaden my own knowledge, sometimes outside of the usual box of PD [professional development] that I would go to, as I think more creatively of sessions that suit the wider audience of people who attend. I have really gained a lot out of the presentations as well as the networking opportunities.
Tell us about the benefits of collaboration in the field of perinatal and infant mental health.
I have noticed when team care arrangements are in place, and strong communication and collaboration occurs, with respect for each other's disciplines, skills and experiences, rather than feeling threatened with a scarcity mindset, we can actually work in a more productive way to supports better outcomes for families, as well as advocate for systems changes too.
I have seen collaborative care work exceptionally well in rural and remote communities where resources are often limited, and so the impact of working together can make a very significant difference.
What advice would you give to other coordinators?
I was worried at first that there would be no one interested in coming along, and that it would be a lot of work to organise and what I discovered was the opposite.
So I encourage you if you have a particular passion in an area of mental health, or in your local community, you might find there are other like-minded professionals out there too who are also keen for knowledge and connection. So give it a go!
And the MHPN support crew are fantastic, doing lots of the behind-the-scenes stuff, so it makes it pretty easy to pull together.
We hear you won an award recently.
I was recently awarded the 2019 Australian Allied Health Awards for Excellence in Rural and Remote Work; and I was also a finalist in the Social Worker of the Year category.
What does a typical week look like for you?
I am based currently in Longford, Tasmania (just out of Launceston) but I travel every three weeks to King Island, once a month to Flinders Island, and have a satellite office in Launceston that is just for my counselling practice.
I am becoming fondly known as the #travellingsocialworker as I am regularly on small planes nowadays - in fact, I'm writing my responses to this interview in the air as I fly back from my recent outreach visit to King Island.
In 2020, I will also be travelling throughout Australia to deliver training and consultancy as part of my Australian Perinatal Loss Professionals Network in skilling up multidisciplinary professionals, including midwives, nurses, GPs and mental health professionals.
Robyn McKinnon is the Director and Mental Health Social Worker of Robyn McKinnon Consultancy Counselling Services; and the Director of the Australian Perinatal Loss Professionals Network.