Care Bag For the Alfred Hospital's Psychiatric Ward

WHAT IS THE CARE BAG & CLOTHING PROJECT?

The care bags are a welcome gift given to all inpatients on their arrival for a stay at the psychiatry ward. A local sewing group of volunteers make and provide the bags. Inside them are items suggested by the ward’s nurses and social workers to make the inpatient’s stay more comfortable. These items include hair brush, moisturizer, lip balm, water bottle, notebook, pens and more. They are gifted from across the Australia-wide community, to show support and care for people suffering with mental illness. Since many of the inpatients arrive in an emergency context, and 40% are homeless, basic clothing is also provided for the staff to distribute as required. The psychiatry ward comprises 58 beds with an average of 1,300 inpatients a year. The project aim is for all inpatients to receive a care bag upon their arrival to the ward.

HOW WAS THE PROJECT SET UP AND HOW IS IT MANAGED?

After hearing how people often come into the Alfred Mental Health psychiatry inpatient ward without any personal items, volunteer Bronwyn Stephens established the project to assist the hospital and her friend, Elsa Carr, Psychiatry's Chief Social Worker. The project quickly gained support from other Rotary Clubs and a Melbourne church and is now managed as a consortium of St Stephen’s Church Gardenvale, Rotary Donations in Kind, and eight Rotary Clubs including Brighton North with supportive funding from a Rotary Foundation District Grant.

Members of the clubs volunteer to source the items and pack the bags. Care bag items and clothing have been donated by a range of individuals and corporate organisations. The project is advertised on GIVIT, a charity connection online platform which attracts generous donors from across Australia. Corporate connections have been very generous too.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THE CARE BAG & CLOTHING PROJECT?

The average length of stay for people in the ward is two weeks, so for the staff to have personal items to give people a sense of welcome and care helps their sense of well being enormously. It makes people’s stay more comfortable and provision of the care bags and clothing alleviates pressure on health workers to meet the needs of the patients. The project also shows kindness from the outside community that they care about those staying in the ward and wish them a speedy recovery. It shows that the stigma surrounding mental health is reducing and that people want to help those suffering.