The Cherry Tree advocates for mental health support

Bridie McLennan, Meg Crothers, and Ashontae Ross working at the Cherry Tree last Saturday.

By Emily-Rose Toohey

The Cherry Tree Coffee and Dining in Warwick participated in a program aimed to improve mental well-being on Saturday, which involved hundreds of free coffees.

The Small Talk, Big Difference program was launched by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and Queensland Health, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

The program hopes to equip Queenslanders in disaster-affected regions with the confidence and skills to start conversations about mental health, and The Cherry Tree founder and owner Scott Morton said the RFDS reached out to him a few weeks ago about his involvement.

“They thought we might be a good match for the program, and we’re just one regional Queensland cafe chosen to come on board,” Scott said.

“RFDS sponsored $1000 worth of coffees so we could give away free takeaways.”

The purpose of the day was for people to come together and start important conversations, and Scott said the last few years have been especially tough for mental health.

“The Small Talk, Big Difference website also included actual questions to help prompt those discussions,” he said.

With Saturday being the business’s busiest day of the week, RFDS Outback Mental Health Clinical Lead Dr Tim Driscoll said the Cherry Tree ran out of the takeaway program cups.

“With the mental health aftermath of disasters like bushfires, most of our support comes from the people immediately around us,” Dr Driscoll said.

“What we’re trying to achieve is getting people comfortable with these concerns.”

In regional and rural localities, there can be a stigma about mental health but Dr Driscoll said this is improving.

“Sometimes people aren’t aware just how effective help is,” he said.

“The first step to start the recovery journey is often a trip to the GP – there are help and services out there.”

The program is being rolled out across 12 regions most impacted by the 2019 Queensland bushfires, which includes the Southern Downs that have also been impacted by recent flooding.

Furthermore, Dr Driscoll said there is often a lot of activity happening during the aftermath of a natural disaster.

“It’s normal to experience things like troubled sleep, feelings of agitation, and being triggered by seemingly small things that may not have bothered you in the past,” he said.

“As a community, we can band together, build our resilience, and help support our neighbours in need now and into the future.”

The RFDS is now also ensuring better access to medical treatment for the next decade after a new ten-year deal between the service and the State Government was made last week.

An additional $334 million in funding for the deal was announced ahead of this month’s State Budget.