With more than one in 10 inner west residents reporting a long-term mental health condition, Leichhardt-based Rough Patch - a social enterprise that offers counselling on a sliding scale of affordability - would seem to be in the right place at the right time.
And its founding director Amber Rules says the newly released data from the 2021 national census doesn't even capture the full picture.
"One in 10 is a conservative number. It really depends on how you conceptualise mental health or mental ill health - there's a difference between mental illness and periods of mental distress. For instance, probably every person on the planet has experienced a long period of mental strain and stress for the past two years," Ms Rules said.
"Just because you don't have a diagnosis for depression and anxiety doesn't mean you're not experiencing it."
Most of the people who work here have had many times in our lives where we couldn't afford mental health care when we desperately needed it.- Amber Rules
For the first time in 2021 the census collected data on diagnosed long-term health conditions - revealing at least 10 per cent of inner west residents have a mental health condition, including depression or anxiety, compared to 8.8 per cent of Australians overall.
Rough Patch aims to help inner westies who are going through a tough time by offering "affordable and accessible" counselling with fees on a "sliding scale" model which means clients pay fees according to their income. It's the first mental health service to do so in Australia, with counselling rates subsidised by sales from the Rough Patch book shop, revenue from training and consulting, and donations and grants.
"Most of the people who work here have had many times in our lives where we couldn't afford mental health care when we desperately needed it. So this business is really personal to me - I know how awful it is when you can't get the help that you need," said Ms Rules. Since opening in 2020, Rough Patch estimates they have saved their clients $260,000 in fees and offered more than 2500 hours of counselling for concerns including anxiety and depression, relationship or family issues and work or study issues.
"People really want a service that is heart-led. We're very openly queer-friendly and have a firm social justice focus and I think those things are very important to the local community," said Ms Rules. "We're saving to move to a bigger place with more counselling rooms and we really want to ... add a social-enterprise cafe so people with mental ill-health have a safe and warm environment to work in."
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