Frequently Asked Questions

 What is different about the ACDC Project?

The ACDC Project is an innovative project that employs Proactive Outreach approach linking people with services and assessing community needs. Rather than waiting for people to present themselves to services and ask for help, through the ACDC Project each householder engaged with is offered the opportunity to be informed about, or where possible linked with, appropriate services.

In Australia, almost half of people aged between 16 and 85, approximately 8.6 million people, have experienced mental disorders in their lifetime (ABS, 2022). 5% of Australians, or 800,000 people are estimated to have a severe mental illness (AIHW, 2022).

People cannot always access to the services and support they need. The ACDC Project is being operated in several different communities across every state and territory of Australia, and has found that the reasons that people don’t access mental health support they need include:

  • They did not know where to get help
  • Services are not available for them
  • They were placed on a waitlist but have not begun receiving support yet
  • They sought support from a service but were found to be ineligible
  • Fear, embarrassment, or shame
  • They could not get help in a reasonable time
  • The prohibitive cost
  • Prohibitive travel would have been required, and/or no transport was available. 

2. What is proactive outreach?

 Local Delivery Partner Organisations identify streets to be visited and People Connectors drop a postcard in letterboxes in those streets to let householders know they will be visiting in the next few days.
People Connectors then walk household to household and ‘knock/buzz/ring’ the front door and speak with householders, inviting them to have a meaningful and respectful conversation about their mental health experiences and challenges, as well as those of their families, friends, and wider communities.
People Connectors offer localised information booklets and fridge magnets about the helpful, relevant and important mental health support services available to them, and where a householder asks for more information, or for support to be linked with a service, People Connectors assist with this.
Finally, People Connectors invite householders to participate in the ACDC Project survey. This survey is designed to give householders the opportunity to anonymously share about their experiences with mental health and wellbeing, and that of their families, friends, and wider communities. The survey also asks about their ideas about how mental health and wellbeing services could be improved.
Proactive Outreach is done in such a way so that the householders’ rights and boundaries are respected, and they feel safe and comfortable.
The guidelines for door knocking have been co-designed through a project working group, with representation of significant stakeholder groups including consumers and carers. A process of co-production and consultation with local stakeholders precedes the door knocking at each site.
People Connectors operate in pairs with a diversity of gender and cultures if practicable. They knock on every door unless there is a reason not to. 

3. What precautions are in place to account for the COVID-19 Pandemic?

 Engaging People Connectors to go door to door to people’s homes carries an inherent risk of acquiring or transmitting infectious diseases, including COVID-19. CMHA mitigates this risk in the ACDC Project by:

  • Seeking and adhering to the advice of police as well as state and territory health authorities.
  • Preferring that People Connectors engaged by Delivery Partners are residents of the local area that they are door knocking within, and not travelling significant distances to undertake the ACDC Project.
  • Requiring that the Delivery Partner Organisations ensure the temperature of everyone in a People Connector team is measured at the beginning of each shift, and to ensure that any individual with a temperature over 37.2 degrees Celsius, fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or runny nose does not undertake any door-to-door activities until they have recovered.
  • Requiring that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, even mild symptoms must leave the site and get tested at a COVID-19 clinic and self-isolate until a negative result is received, in accordance with state or territory health guidelines.
  • Recommending that People Connectors have received the seasonal influenza vaccination and the COVID-19 vaccination when available.
  • Training People Connectors to always observe appropriate social distancing during the door knocking activity.

4. Why the door knocking approach? What evidence is there to suggest it is a more effective way of directly engaging, given some people find it quite confronting? 

People experiencing from severe mental illness often experience social isolation and disengagement from common channels of social communications. Additionally, many people with mental health issues do not reach out to mental health services and “help-seeking” is often absent or is a late stage occurrence. This means that people are not accessing and receiving appropriate services at the right time, resulting in a lack of support and unnecessary constraints being placed on crisis services.

Door knocking means that people are directly reached, and that information and linking is offered to people without their needing to ‘present’ or to assertively seek help. In this way the ACDC Project brings potential access to mental health, emotional and social wellbeing services directly to people who may not connect in any other way.

At the same time the project is measuring and analysing the unseen mental health support needs in communities through the ACDC Project survey and collection of householder stories. Other forms of engagement would rely on people having information about where to go to seek information and assistance and making the time and effort to do so. The ACDC Project eliminates these barriers to service access. 

5. Have you considered that people may not want to answer the door or engage? 

 Yes, there has been a significant amount of discussion in relation to this. Ultimately, if people are not wanting to speak with a People Connector then of course their decision is respected. The ACDC Project has been designed with assumptions that some people do not wish to engage with People Connectors, or are not able to be engaged with for other reasons, for example they may not be home. We can only offer.

Through the project so far 33% of doors knocked are answered, and over half (54%) of householders who answered the door engage with a People Connector.

Prior to door knocking at each site, the ACDC Project team implement a community engagement and marketing strategy. A community level mapping exercise informs the pre-engagement strategy, through which opportunities to introduce the ACDC Project to community members are identified. Pre-engagement strategies involve the use of communication platforms such as local newspaper, radio, and/or a physical presence at community events, and a letterbox drop is always completed.

The timing of the door knocking is significant. Door knocking takes place during daylight hours, including some Saturdays, and if the householder does not have the opportunity to engage with a People Connector at the time the door is knocked, a rescheduled engagement by appointment is offered. Similarly, if a door does not get answered, together with the fridge magnet and brochure a ‘sorry we missed you’ appointment card is left under the door with contact details and opportunities to reschedule at a time that suits the person. 

6. What services are householders provided information about in the fridge magnets and brochures? Are they only mental health services or broader services

The information products distributed to individuals and households is a significant output of the ACDC Project and investment is made to ensure that these are relevant and accessible to the targeted householders. Partner Organisations and local community stakeholders co-produce the information products of the ACDC Project with CMHA for each community. 

Information products contain information about local and online mental health services, as well as other social and emotional wellbeing services and supports. Refer to the resources page on this website for more information, and to download PDF versions of each brochure and magnet.

7. How are you going to make sure that you have appropriate referral options for people? How are you going to avoid identifying needs in people and then not having referral or support options?

 A part of the community engagement process involves determining the local service capacities for responding to needs of people identified through the project. This process is tailored to each community that the project operates within, and potential sites which are identified as not having a minimum level of service capacity may be excluded from the project.

One outcome of the project is to build capacity amongst existing service providers to enable them to offer more effective connection with householders in community. Where People Connectors speak with a Householder who has a mental health need which is unable to be met through the current services available to them, this service gap is reported back to the local Delivery Partner organisation and other local stakeholders.

At a minimum People Connectors can record the service gap and document the story of the Householder to feed into the research component of the project. 

8. Will ACDC really make a difference for people?

 This Proactive Outreach approach was untested in Australia. As such CMHA and partner organisations are very interested in measuring its efficacy, and a significant investment has been made in research and evaluation of the project.

The ACDC Project is successful only through the strong partnerships and inclusive co-production processes with stakeholders at all levels. As such, CMHA has invested significant resources into building partnerships and into the co-production processes. 

9. How will the outcomes, and the success of the project, be measured?

 There are several intended outcomes of the ACDC Project, and some will be easier to measure and report on than others. Objectives include:

  • Number of People Connector engagements with householders.
  • Number of each information product distributed.
  • Number of successful referrals made.
  • Number of surveys completed.
  • Stories collected.

A significant investment has been made in the evaluation of the ACDC Project, which reports on the efficacy and the return on investment of the project, as well as how well the stated objectives are achieved. The Centre for Social Impact has been retained to undertake this evaluation. 

10. What happens at the end of the project?

 Significant research, data analysis and the project evaluation will have concluded by this time, and final reports will be prepared.
Significant findings of the project will be shared at conferences and recommendations related to these findings will be advocated for at the federal level.
All identifiable data will be de-identified and destroyed in line with legislation and the terms of the project data collection consent form.
The ACDC Project kit, including the survey and the Proactive Outreach guidelines, will be available for adaption and use by organisations in future iterations of the ACDC Project.










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