A bag of ‘belonging,’ a bar of ‘bravery’ and a block of ‘reassurance.’

A unique vending machine recently introduced at Flinders Medical Centre is dispensing snack-sized $2 psychological treats to feed the mindset, build skills, embed a sense of purpose and grow a sense of belonging.

An initiative of the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, Intangible Goods and the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, the vending machine is a twist on the world of consumables – aiming to normalise mental health by making it available as a consumable.

Each item in the vending machine is designed to create a different emotional response.

“Now we can purchase a snack for both mind and body,” says Breakthrough Executive Director John Mannion.

Intangible Goods is the work of artists Mark Starmach and Elizabeth Commandeur in conjunction with mental health professionals Barbara LeBas, Dr Tim Sharp and Charlotte Stapf.  Mark and Elizabeth identified that for many of us on the surface, we’re rich, but deep down, we’re poor because we are more stressed, depressed, anxious and alone than ever before. Our work and home life balance is out or proportion and we are working longer hours and missing out on looking after ourselves.

John said last year, Breakthrough funded a research study with Flinders University Professor Paul Ward, exploring the impacts of mental health in the medical profession, and specifically suicidal risk.

“The research hit a cord with the medical teams at SALHN and also gained full support from SASMOA (South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association). Together we explored how we could start to look at addressing some of the concerns and risks.

“We wanted to do something different, and with the support of Dr Di Lawrence, the Executive Director of Medical Services at SALHN, the team at Breakthrough took on the challenge and investigated the mental wellbeing vending machine.’

John said the vending machine could benefit the whole hospital, across many staff teams and expand out to patients, families and carers.

“The vending machine gives hardworking SALHN staff the opportunity to spend some time thinking and caring about themselves while they are at work, and focus on belonging, friendships, reassurance and relaxation.”

The vending machine will be located at Flinders Medical Centre for the next three months, with funds supporting Breakthrough.

This article was first published by Southern Health News – a publication of the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network.

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