CEO Update: What can we do in a pandemic? What can we do to help?

What can we do in a pandemic? What can we do to help?

It’s often said that in times of struggle and hardship, Australians are there for each other.

When there’s bushfires, serious ones like we saw this summer, we were there for each other.

We were there on the ground as front line volunteers and workers, backed up by thousands more donating to help communities in need.

In floods, we fill sand bags, we cook food, we help clean up, and again we donate.

But what can we do in a pandemic? What can we do to help?

What can we do if we are not a nurse, or doctor, or health care worker on the front line?

What can we do to help supermarket workers who are facing some awful behaviours?

What can we do to help improve the physical and mental health of our community? Of our families? Our colleagues?

What can we do to support people when we are advised to keep ‘socially distant’?

The expert advice and lessons from other countries say we need to change our ways and flatten the curve - so clearly communicated by the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan this week.

We need to stop gathering and moving in large groups, and we need to change our normal ways of being in the world, if we can, to help slow down the spread of coronavirus.

At Mental Health Australia, like so many of our members, we’ve decided to change our normal ways of working, but not our work.

From yesterday we’ve been running a virtual office, with all of our staff now working from home - dogs, cats and cactus by their side.

We’ve set up IT requirements to video conference, chat and connect, and our work to advocate for mental health reform will continue.

Our work which only last week brought together more than 70 delegates at our successful Members Policy Forum to help further advance our mental health advocacy and reform agenda. We were so pleased to see so many of you attend with such uncertainty facing our community, and feedback regarding the speakers has been very positive.

Changing our working ways at this time is the smartest thing our small organisation can do to help the wider health care system operate at its best. A system we know is already stretched, and a system that needs our support.

So to those women and men on the frontline, those people who cannot change the way they work because they are needed to screen, test and treat, hopefully if we, and others who can, change our ways it will slow things down for you.

We also hope that during this heightened time of increased anxiety and uncertainty, people don’t turn ‘social distancing’ into ‘social isolation’.

The modern world has us more connected with family and friends than ever before, and beyond our online social interactions, people will find other ways to connect with neighbours and those in their community.

Just like some of those heart-warming stories we’ve seen from Italy and Spain, where people are singing from their windows, and holding gym sessions on their balconies, we will have our own heart-warming stories in Australia.

Our team is already coming up with good ideas to maintain connectedness. What are yours?

Melanie Cantwell
Acting CEO

Members Policy Forum - Highlights Video - Watch Here



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. 

We will be hosting our first webinar for 2020 in April, on Module 1 of the Framework. 


  • When: Wednesday 8 April 2020
  • VIC, NSW, ACT, TAS & QLD2:00 pm
  • SA & NT1:30 pm
  • WA: 12:00 pm

Register here


Mental Health News

Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19

It is normal and healthy to feel stress and anxiety sometimes. The changing daily circumstances and widespread media reporting and commentary on COVID-19, however, can give rise to heightened individual and community anxiety. 

Read more

Aged Care Royal Commission announces scope and purpose of Adelaide Hearing 5

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has announced the scope and purpose of Adelaide Hearing 5, happening from Monday, 30 March to Wednesday, 1 April 2020 - Mental health, oral health and allied health care.

Read more 

COAG Disability Reform Council - Communique

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Disability Reform Council (the Council) met by telepresence this week. The meeting discussed a national response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, particularly its potential impact on people with disability and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). 

Read more 

Lifeline will continue answering calls through Covid-19

John Brogden, Lifeline Australia Chairman, has announced Australia’s leading suicide prevention service provider will continue to answer calls throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 

Read more 

Better support for fire affected small businesses

The Australian Government boosted assistance for small businesses this week with the announcement of $10 000 grants and streamlining of existing measures.

Read more 

Joint statement from disability sector unions and service provider peak

National Disability Services (the peak for NDIS service providers) and the Australian Services Union, the Health Services Union and the United Workers Union (the ‘NDIS Unions’) have come together to develop principles and processes to support the disability sector and its workforce during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

NDS and the NDIS Unions have identified the following principles which should underpin the Australian Government’s support for the sector: 

  • The Australian Government is the principal funder of disability services, with accountability for administering the NDIS, setting service prices through the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), and regulating the quality of services through the NDIS Commission.  Its role and responsibility is to take appropriate action now to ensure that people with disability are able to safely access services when they are needed. 
  • The Australian Government must work together with all State and Territory Governments to deliver a national response to the current pandemic, drawing on the experience of all governments. 
  • Disability services should be provided to people with disability without risk to the health and safety of workers, people with disability or others in the community. 
  • The disability sector needs to attract and retain workers to grow so that it can meet the growing demand for services.  How the sector deals with issues created by the current pandemic will influence decisions by workers about whether to remain in the sector or look for jobs elsewhere.

Read more 


Member Profiles

The National LGBTI Health Alliance is the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (LGBTI) and other sexuality, gender, and bodily diverse people and communities. They recognise that people’s genders, bodies, relationships, and sexualities affect their health and wellbeing in every domain of their life.
Vision - Healthy lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender, intersex, and other sexuality, gender, and bodily diverse people and communities throughout Australia and the world, free from stigma and discrimination.
Mission - As the national NGO peak body for LGBTI health in Australia, their particular mission is to provide a national focus to improve health outcomes for LGBTI people through policy, advocacy, representation, research evidence, and capacity building.
Website - Facebook - Twitter -  

TeamHEALTH is a for-purpose organisation that supports people dealing with mental health concerns or mental illness. Their purpose is to create community capacity for good mental health so that all people may lead a full and valued life. They provide evidence based mental health services, focused on support, recovery and rehabilitation across Darwin, Palmerston and the regional and remote communities of the Northern Territory’s Top End, including; Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, Daly River, Maningrida and Gunbalanya.
Website - Facebook - 



COVID-19 scam messages targeting Australians

ASD’s Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is aware of a COVID-19 themed scam being distributed via text message.

It is understood the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s Scamwatch has received multiple reports of COVID-19 themed scam texts being sent to members of the public.

The text messages appear to come from ‘GOV’ as the sender and they include a link to find out when to ‘get tested in your geographical area’ for COVID-19.

The link in these text messages is not legitimate, and if clicked on, may install malicious software on your device, designed to steal your banking details. 

If you receive one of these messages, delete the message and DO NOT CLICK THE LINK.  

Read more

ANROW webinar: Preventing gender-based violence in mental health inpatient units

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) presents a webinar on ‘Safe for women? Preventing gender-based violence in mental health inpatient units’.

This webinar will feature findings from ANROWS research led by Dr Juliet Watson of RMIT University titled “Preventing gender-based violence in mental health inpatient units”.  A  panel of advocates, researchers and practitioners will discuss:

  • women’s experiences of gender-based violence in inpatient mental health units
  • how current practices are not keeping women safe
  • what changes can be made to improve mental health inpatient services.

Webinar: 1:00 PM–2:00 PM (AEDT) Monday, 23rd March 2020

Read more and register

Share your experience – National Fifth Plan Consumer and Carer Surveys

The National Mental Health Commission have launched the Fifth Plan Consumer and Carer Surveys for 2020, seeking feedback from consumers and carers on their experiences of mental health services in the past twelve months.

The Commission conducts annual consumer and carer surveys to help inform their reporting on the progress of mental health and suicide prevention reform in Australia, specifically the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

This year there are two national surveys – one for consumers and one for carers – to better understand their unique experiences and needs.

If you have accessed mental health services in the past year, or cared for someone who has accessed services, they would like to hear from you!

Read more

Medicines Australia launches Code of Conduct Edition19

Over the past 60 years, the Code of Conduct has kept pace with the changing demands of our evolving industry. The newly launched Code of Conduct Edition 19 is the next stage in our continued efforts to strive for best practice, giving you the confidence to innovate and make meaningful connections with the best interest of patient communities at heart.

Read more

SANE Topic Tuesday - Group mindfulness session

On Tuesday March 31st SANE will be running a one hour online event with a totally different approach. SANE’s Topic Tuesday will be a live group mindfulness session between 7-8pm AEDT hosted by One Door Mental Health.

Mindfulness meditation has been proven to improve our concentration and reduce ruminative thinking that contributes to the high levels of stress. Within our own community and the broader community mindfulness is a valuable tool to employ.

Read more



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mental health, pandemic, kindness