CEO Update: Consumer and carer voices are the voices we need to hear from

Consumer and carer voices are the voices we need to hear from

As someone who experienced mental health services as a child, and who has worked in the mental health system for more than thirty years as a clinician and in policy, I have seen first-hand the genuine understanding and change that comes from listening and really hearing from those at the heart.

There is no doubt the mainstream media plays a crucial role when it comes to decreasing or increasing the stigma associated with mental illness. Which means over the next six weeks, as we highlight both World Suicide Prevention Day and World Mental Health Day, there is an opportunity and, more importantly, a responsibility for many of us to reduce stigma with every story on mental health.

As such, Mental Health Australia would like to challenge the many journalists and media organisations looking to report on the myriad of mental health stories in our communities, to stop, talk, and learn from those at the heart of our mental health ecosystem: the consumers and carers with a lived experience of mental ill-health.

People with first-hand experience of the system under pressure, the one we are all trying so hard to fix and improve on a daily basis. People with a lived experience of decades of advocating, and pleading, to have their voices heard, and balanced, alongside many others in the mental health system.

Last week the ABC’s Four Corners program aired a feature piece on the failures of our mental health system. Subsequently a statement was issued that provided background and context to the decisions made about the approach taken.

Yes, the story acknowledged the reality of the wider issues and need to invest more in the mental system so that others don’t have to experience what amounted to significant personal and family trauma. But it also raised concerns for consumers and carers, and reinforced some false stereotypes and negative stigma. Concerns the ABC has heard, and clarified in the statement this week.

Too often the mainstream media takes the easy option of highlighting and, sadly, disproportionally sensationalising violence and associated trauma of mental illness. This somehow outweighs the balance of talking to both consumers and carers at the heart of the mental health journey.

We know this because the majority of people with mental illness are much more likely to experience violence than to perpetrate violence.

The Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Mental Health in Victoria states that “most people with mental illnesses are not violent, most violent offenders are not mentally ill, and the strongest risk factors for violence (e.g., past violence) are shared by those with and without mental illnesses”.

How can we improve the system and ultimately provide mental health consumers and carers with the respect, care, support and services they need, if they don’t have a voice or we don’t listen to what they are saying? How can we ensure that voice will be heard in a world free of stigma and judgement, unintentional or otherwise?

As leaders in the constant fight against stigma, our colleagues at SANE Australia were quick to highlight this by saying:

This is a complex and sensitive issue where we need to do two things at the same time: we need to get fundamental reform to the mental health system while also reducing stigma and discrimination.

For a decade or more now, the mental health and suicide prevention sectors have run hundreds of public and media campaigns encouraging people to talk about their mental health challenges and seek help.

We have worked hard to reduce stigma so as to create safe spaces for people to tell their stories. Of course the mainstream media has been a hugely positive contributor to the cause, and in doing so helped break down stigma, and helped people find a voice.

But we need to make sure we are hearing from everyone, especially from people at the heart of our mental health ecosystem and presenting their stories in a way that achieves the fundamental reform that must come. And must come soon.

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley

Social prescribing: The best script is what matters to you

On Monday we were delighted to have over 400 attendees at our joint webinar with the Consumers Health Forum, discussing social prescribing. I was so pleased for the chance to co-chair this webinar with Leanne Wells, CEO of CHF, and have been highly encouraged by the widespread interest this webinar has drawn. You can watch the webinar here.

This week, we joined the Consumers Health Forum and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in calling for the Federal Government to develop and implement an Australian-wide social prescribing scheme as part of the Government’s 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan.

You can read our joint media release here.



On Monday I will be meeting with Martin Hoffman CEO NDIA with other colleagues from the Board of the National Disability and Carer Alliance.

On Tuesday morning we’ll be meeting with colleagues from the RACGP and Consumers Health Forum to continue our discussion and advocacy work on social prescribing. That afternoon I’ll be meeting with colleagues on the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce.

On Wednesday we’ll meet with our friends at The Mental Health Services Learning Network, followed by a NDIA CEO Forum meeting in the afternoon about Support Coordination.

On Thursday the Mental Health Australia Board will meet in the morning and then that afternoon we’ll hold a staff get together via zoom, and in person for those in the office, to celebrate Women’s Health Week.

While on Friday afternoon I’ll be attending the eighth National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce meeting to look at final presentations from taskforce members on the mental health workforces.


Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

The Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (the Framework) is a free, nationally available online resource which allows organisations and individual practitioners to evaluate and enhance their cultural responsiveness. It has been mapped against national standards to help you meet your existing requirements, with access to a wide range of support and resources. 

Our next webinar will be held on Wednesday 14 October where we will be exploring Module 4: Building a Culturally Responsive Mental Health Workforce. Watch this space for registration details closer to the date.


Mental Health News

UA and headspace launch suicide response initiative

A unique initiative aimed at helping universities respond to a death by suicide has been launched by Universities Australia and headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, supporting university communities to be mentally healthy.

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World Suicide Prevention Day goes virtual

This World Suicide Prevention Day, Lifeline will call on Australians to send the clearest signal yet to those who are struggling, that they are not alone.  Annual Out of the Shadows events go virtual in a show of support for those bereaved by suicide and those who are struggling with their own mental health.

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COVID-19 anxiety in Victoria felt Australia-wide

Feelings of anxiety and depression because of the COVID-19 pandemic are being shared across the country, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 

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More mental health support for regional students

A fly-in fly-out psychology and telepsychology service of sixteen permanent senior psychologists will be introduced to support students in regional and remote parts of NSW with mental health. 

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Lifeline encouraged by coronial finding the rate of suicide has not changed since COVID-19

John Brogden, Chairman of Australia’s largest suicide prevention service, Lifeline Australia, said he is encouraged by data revealed last week by the Coroner’s Court of Victoria, that found the number of suicides in the state this year is consistent with the same period for 2019.

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Member Profiles

Soldier On provides a range of support services to Australian Defence Force members, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other security agency personnel. Soldier On’s mission is to work side by side with those who serve and protect Australia, and their families, helping them to secure their futures. Staff work side by side with individuals and families, to strengthen resilience and develop meaningful connections with family members, mates, and the local community through a diverse range of health and wellbeing services, employment opportunities, learning and education programs, and participation in community, social, and sporting activities.
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cohealth is a not-for-profit community health organisation that provides vital local health and support services including medical, dental, allied health, mental health, aged care and counselling, and many specialist health services across Melbourne’s CBD, northern and western suburbs. The people who use cohealth services often face significant health disadvantages, have ongoing and complex health and support needs, and are frequently at risk of falling through gaps in health services and funding systems. cohealth responds to people’s needs by delivering a wide range of low cost, high-quality, accessible health care and support services. cohealth promotes health and wellbeing, works to prevent ill-health and better manage health conditions, and is a keen advocate for improved access to health care for all.
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2020 World Suicide Prevention Day

Word Suicide Prevention Day - Working Together to Prevent Suicide. World Suicide Prevention Day is an international awareness day observed on 10 September each year to provide a focus for dedicated action to prevent suicide. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) collaborates with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health to host World Suicide Prevention Day.

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R U OK?Day is Thursday 10 September 2020. It’s R U OK?’s national day of action when they remind Australians that every day is the day to ask, “Are you OK?” if someone in your world is struggling with life’s ups and downs.

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Mindframe: release of redesigned and refreshed guidelines

Mindframe this week announced the release of refreshed and redesigned Mindframe guidelines for safe communication on mental ill-health and suicide. This refresh reflects updated design and links to evidence.

The collection includes the newly launched Guidelines on media reporting of severe mental illness in the context of violence and crime as well as: 

  • Reporting suicide and mental Ill-health: A Mindframe resource for media professionals
  • Mental ill-health and suicide: A Mindframe resource for stage and screen
  • Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD)

The Mindframe team are available to support implementation of the guidelines, including consulting on individual work as well as training. 

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Butterfly Foundation: Love Your Body Week for Schools

6th–12th September 2020
Love Your Body Week for Schools is Australia’s largest positive body image movement for young people. It invites all Australians working in primary and secondary schools and other youth and community organisations to come together to celebrate diversity and build body confidence in young people.

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Saving our Kids: Preventing Youth Suicide - 10 September 2020, Online

Australian Intercultural Society (AIS)
Saving our Kids: Preventing Youth Suicide
10 September 2020, 7.00pm-8.00pm

An expert panel will be discussing how to open the lines of communication; identifying concerning signs to look out for; and when is it an appropriate time to seek professional help. The panel will discuss Youth Suicide Prevention on World Suicide Prevention Day with Psychologist Sabina Read, Suicide Prevention Researcher Gerry Georgatos, Mental Health Advocate Tareq Ahmed and Kelly Hand from Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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