CEO Update: When we only look one way, what else do we miss?

When we only look one way, what else do we miss?  

In this climate of physical distancing over the last few weeks, I’ve made a deliberate effort to talk more with people. 

To talk with colleagues and members, family, neighbours, good friends, and particularly enjoyably, some old friends who I rarely find time to call.

Not email them, not text them, not scroll through their social media feed, but actually make a phone call or even FaceTime. Actually talk to them. Talk, connect and check in.  

It’s a tactic we know works following research after the SARS pandemic in Hong Kong in 2008, which found that residents who experienced increased social connectedness were able to improve their wellbeing and mitigate the mental health impacts of the pandemic. 

Clearly everyone is talking about one thing at the moment: coronavirus. And rightly so because COVID-19 will be how we all remember 2020, and how generations of us will draw a line in the sand for this century. 

It will be our before and after, so not only has connecting with these colleagues, extended family and old friends provided me with a sense of consistent community during this time of uncertainty and isolation, it has also provided me with some good laughs and good reminders as well.

It’s been lovely and hard all at the same time. We’ve discussed coronavirus of course. The negatives, the positives. The feel good stories, the financial strain, the uncertainty. The unkind. The kind. 

But then we’ve discussed life beyond COVID-19, and how life before it wasn’t exactly easy for many, and how we need to be aware that underlying health issues and concerns have in no way disappeared just because they are no longer front of mind.

I’ve spoken with friends with cancer, debilitating menopause that has left them housebound long before all of us were housebound, friends with HIV or lupus or other immune problems. All of them are more scared than they were previously, more worried about seeking treatment, and more anxious about getting sicker. 

I’ve spoken with consumers with pre-existing mental illness, whose needs have only intensified in a world where opportunities for face-to-face psychosocial support have diminished due to physical distancing requirements. And I’m yet again currently supporting a loved one through admission to a psychiatric ward at a time no-one wants to be ‘inside’ anywhere other than their home.

I entered the public health system as a nurse in the early 1990s, and have since weaved my way through a career that has led to mental health advocacy and policy reform here at Mental Health Australia. Like many of us I’ve never experienced anything like this. 

That includes years working and volunteering in Australia and overseas when HIV and AIDS became a global health crisis. A battle that started in the late 80s and that continues to this day.

We need to make sure we don’t forget about other health crises and underlying concerns that still exist for many in our community, even though they may not be getting our full attention right now. I feel similarly for all the people impacted by bushfires; their stories now seem so hidden.

If we can manage this pandemic, while also supporting people with serious and underlying health and mental health issues, then that would be an impressive legacy for all of us for generations to come. 

Kind regards,

Melanie Cantwell
Acting CEO

Millsy’s advice on how to ”look after your mental health, Australia!”


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. 

On 8 April, the Embrace Project held a webinar with 116 participants from across Australia on the Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia discussing Module 1: Planning Strategically to Meet Multicultural Community Needs. Watch the webinar here!

Stay tuned for upcoming webinars, with the next one being held on Wednesday 3 June.

We look forward to staying connected with you to improve mental health services for CALD communities across Australia.


Mental Health News

RACGP on mental health toll of Covid-19: Your GP is there to help

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging patients to talk to their GP if they have concerns about their mental health.

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Understanding how people with dementia use health services in their last year of life

In one of the first studies of its kind in Australia, the use of health services by people with dementia in their last year of life has been examined in a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

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Covid-19 alcohol poll - Australians using more alcohol and worried about drinking

New data released this week shows one-in-five Australians have purchased more alcohol than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the majority are drinking more and have concerns about their alcohol use and the drinking of others in their household.

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Employers need to get ready for JobKeeper now

The new JobKeeper Payment has passed through parliament and the Australian Taxation Office is working to assist businesses to access the scheme, helping them to retain their employees.

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Emergency planning and response issues paper

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is seeking information about the experiences of people with disability during recent emergencies in Australia.

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Covid-19: Statement of concern: Human rights, disability and ethical decision-making

This Statement of Concern was commissioned by: People With Disability Australia (PWDA); Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA); National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA); Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO); First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN); ACT Council of Social Service Inc. (ACTCOSS).

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On Tuesday, Harry Lovelock, Director of Policy and Projects, will be participating in the next NDIA Industry Reference Group meeting via videoconference.

On Thursday, Harry will be participating in the next Disability Support Services Committee meeting via teleconference.

On Friday, Mental Health Australia is pleased to be hosting our second lunchtime Mini MPF webinar, with guest speaker Professor Alan Rosen AO. And on Friday afternoon, Harry will be participating in the second meeting of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce. 


Member Profiles

The Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition is the peak body for community mental health and wellbeing. They work in collaboration with a wide network of organisations, people with lived experience, their families and supporters across the Northern Territory. They work at both a national and local level to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Territorians. Guiding Principles:

  • For the common good with a commit to social justice and human rights for all people, always.
  • Collaboration to seek positive social change through collaboration, partnership and mutual respect. To work respectfully with others to achieve shared goals.
  • Accountability to place the mental health and wellbeing of all Territorians at the forefront of what we do.
  • Cultural respect, responsiveness and security to recognise and respect cultural identity, including cultural perspectives of mental health and wellbeing, the harmful impacts of colonisation and the right to self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Person-centred to acknowledge that each person’s recovery journey is deeply personal and unique. To provide quality accredited services that are empowering, strengths-based and socially inclusive.
  • Valuing of lived experience to include the voice of people with lived experience in all the work that we do.

Website - Facebook -…

WayAhead – the Mental Health Association NSW plays a vital role in the development of mental health initiatives, the provision of information,  support and advocacy which increases community awareness and knowledge of mental health issues. With the support of their board, staff, members, volunteers and students, they work towards a society free from prejudice and discrimination against people living with mental illness. They strive towards a society that understands, values and actively supports the best possible mental health and wellbeing for all people.
Website - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - 



Lived Experience Australia webinars

Lived Experience Australia (LEA) is reaching out, promoting and facilitating connectedness for the mental health lived experience community during these uncertain times knowing just how important and essential a sense of belonging and connection with others is to our wellbeing.  LEA is facilitating free webinar series titled ‘Our Connection’, on Wednesdays at 2.00pm EST on a fortnightly basis at least until the end of June 2020.

The first webinar was held on 8th April with Ms Christine Morgan (CEO NMHC) as the speaker. This can be viewed here.

The second webinar titled: Getting Help - Helping Kids will be held on 22nd April at 2.00pm EST where LEA has invited the RANZCP to partner with them in providing important information on the new MBS telehealth items and how we can identify, talk to and manage anxiety in young children.

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National Survey and Consultation opportunities for National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards

The Commission is seeking feedback on the draft standards from consumers and carers, clinicians, service providers and any other interested stakeholders. The preferred method for receiving your feedback is by online survey.

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FearLess Webinar Invitation: Creating Connections

In the first of a series of webinars in 2020, FearLess will be joined by Chris Barrie AC, Chairman and Alex Gerrick, CEO to discuss how to create connections in an ever changing landscape as well as the plans and priorities forward for FearLess on meeting new needs for those living with PTSD.

When: Apr 21, 2020 05:00 PM Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney 
Topic: FearLess: Creating Connections - a new way forward 

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batyr: World Wellness Circle

The World Wellness Circle is an initiative by batyr sending daily videos to your inbox focusing on either mind, body or spirit to look after your wellbeing. Donate what you can, join the global movement and receive a motivational video straight to your inbox every morning throughout the month of April.

Spread the word! This is a global movement so please share with your connections! Use the hashtag #worlwellnesscircle and tag @batyr. 

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SANE Topic Tuesday: Online mindfulness

Join SANE’s online mindfulness group!

  • Tuesday 28th April, 7-8.30pm AEST
  • Online Community Event | Lived Experience & Carers

Read more


Mel shares some tips on how to #LookAfterYourMentalHealthAustralia 

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mental health, pandemic, kindness