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On Saturday 18 May 2019, One Door held the annual mental health symposium, broadly addressing the current functioning of the mental health system in Australia. More specifically, the symposium focused on the question do we do it better or do it differently?
Discussions at the symposium canvassed a range of issues, covering areas of governance, advocacy, the need for more peer work and lived experience models, mental health services and mental health in the home, employment and community.
Issues of governance included the suggestion that State and Federal government work together to adequately fund community mental health programs and better communication and coordination is required between PHNs and LHDs. A number of discussants championed the idea of a Parliamentary luncheon where consumers and carers can have a seat at the table with relevant decision makers. One Door previously held such an event but has not been able to continue this.
Advocacy issues included the argument that mental health NGOs could learn from HIV/AIDS and Cancer support services in better strategies to gain funds. It was also argued that family members and carers should be informed, educated and empowered to help the person they love or care for. This included stipulating that family or carers should be contacted when a loved one or carer enters mental health facilities or processes at the Mental Health Tribunal.
Many people at the symposium argued the need for increased peer work and lived experience in the mental health system. This included suggestions that each person with serious mental health issues should have a dedicated peer support worker, that people with lived experience of mental illness should be encouraged to share their stories in safe places, and that peer workers and people with lived experience should be involved in system design, roll-out and delivery.
Mental health services were criticised for being too fragmented, and both presenters and audience participants at the symposium recommended that services be more inclusive and partnerships across the sector should become a reality. Others argued for a role for carers and loved ones in service provision, and even in medication decisions, and that services should be focused on recovery rather than the deficit model of illness treatment. One discussant recommended the Ron Hemmings Unit at Kenmore Hospital, Goulburn as a good service model example.
Discussants also raised a number of issues relevant to mental health in the home, employment and community. Some advocated better Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) at work, and the recognition of mental health sick days. Many pointed out the benefits of gainful employment, and the need for increased low-cost community housing for people with serious mental illness. Some suggested this housing could be combined with arts centres, community gardens and community centres.
These ideas and more were sketched throughout the day by the talented Ben Crothers from Presto Sketching, take a look here.