CEO Update - #YouCanTalk and 'flush the negativity'

Lachlan Searle

#YouCanTalk and ‘flush the negativity’

Last Friday, when heading home from another thought provoking TheMHS Summer Forum in Sydney, I met one of Australia’s great champions of mental health.

I don’t know his name, nor age, nor religion, nor family situation. But I do know that this particular Sydney taxi driver was, and is, a champion for mental health in his community, and the wider world in which we all live.

His story could easily have been transcribed for a feature film, a sliding doors type moment, where change is possible if people stop, listen and are prepared to have a conversation.

As often happens, the taxi driver asked me about the Flannel Flower pin on my suit jacket and we began to talk about mental health.

The taxi driver recounted a story that had clearly moved him, and then moved me.

A 14-year-old boy had sat quietly during a ride in his cab, politely paid his fare, and then handed the driver a suicide note. That’s right a 14-year-old.

The taxi driver, who spoke in broken English, spent the next hour or so sitting on the side of a Sydney roadway, with commuters, travellers and the wider world streaming past. He sat there talking to the 14-year-old boy who intended to take his own life.

“I taught him how to flush the negativity from his mind,” said the taxi driver.

And then after some time, and once he was satisfied the boy was OK, he went back to ferrying Sydneysiders around the city.

I congratulated the taxi driver on his efforts, and I asked him what it was that had given him the confidence to engage with someone who he had only just met, and clearly someone who was in such distress and despair.

“I did not go to school too much when I was younger”, said the driver, “but I like to read books that I take out from the library,” he said.

“I am not a psychologist, but I have read books about the mind.”

Books and knowledge that clearly helped in this instance.

While none of us will ever know exactly how the story ends, I like to imagine the scenario where the 14-year-old boy, now an older man surrounded by family and loved ones, recounts how a Sydney cabbie, born in Afghanistan, took the time to have a conversation with him on the side of a Sydney road. A conversation that saved his life.

Many people who need support, who need to connect, who need to find new hope, will never come into contact with what we might call the ‘mental health system’, because the reality is they are more likely to find support from within their own community, or in this instance a random mental health champion to help ‘flush the negativity’ from their mind.

Most of the people who offer support, connection, and hope will not complete Mental Health First Aid Training, nor an Accidental Counsellor course.  

A number of things seem to have saved this 14-year-old boy’s life at this time; his apparent willingness to reach out to a stranger; the taxi driver’s awareness of the needs of the boy; and, perhaps most importantly, the taxi driver’s willingness to stop, listen and have a conversation.

Talking about mental health is not enough. People need access to high quality, evidence based services and programs. We need to address the social and political circumstances that contribute to people’s pain and hopelessness.

But talking can save a life, we know that. And clearly a chance encounter like this can change the trajectory of a life.

As we work to secure those services and programs that are so desperately needed, we must also keep reassuring people that #YouCanTalk and acknowledge that there are many people in our community who can listen and help.

I gave the taxi driver my Flannel Flower pin, and my thanks.  If you see him, you might want to give him your thanks too!

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

National Multicultural Mental Health Project
Help contribute to a new name and brand!
Take the five minute SURVEY

The National Multicultural Mental Health Project provides a national focus on mental health and suicide prevention for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.  
This new Project builds on the important work of previous national multicultural mental health projects (e.g. Mental Health in Multicultural Australia [MHiMA], and Multicultural Mental Health Australia), and works towards an equitable mental health system which reflects and responds well to the needs of Australia’s multicultural population.
Project activities include:
•    Providing support for organisations to evaluate and improve their cultural responsiveness through further development and promotion of the 
Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia
•    Establishing, maintaining and promoting a quality-assured knowledge exchange and repository platform on the project’s website
•    Increasing mental health awareness, knowledge and capacity in CALD communities.
•    Mapping available evidence-based resources and tools and from these findings, identifying priorities and developing new resources and training

More information about the Project can be found here

Mental Health Australia is working together with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia and National Ethnic Disability Alliance to deliver the project, and we are seeking your thoughts, feelings and ideas on the brand values and a new name for the National Multicultural Mental Health Project.

Naming & Branding Activity - Take the five minute SURVEY

We welcome your contributions to the discussion and development of a new name and brand that will capture the essence and identity of the National Multicultural Mental Health Project.

Click here to take the five minute survey by Friday 15 March 2019.


Additional Multicultural Mental Health Project updates:

•    This week we held our second Stakeholder meeting in Canberra with 16 services from around Australia giving valuable input into the Project. We focussed on the Framework re-development and our upcoming work engaging services including Primary Health Networks. 
•    Next week we will hold our third CALD Consumer and Carer meeting. This fantastic group of people come together from every state and territory across Australian to provide input into the Project from lived experiences. They are a valuable source of information and great ambassadors for the Project. 
•    Later this month Project staff will be travelling to the 2nd Australia and New Zealand Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference in Brisbane. We will also be visiting Primary Health Networks and services while we are there.

How would you like to join the Mental Health Australia team?

Mental Health Australia is currently recruiting for an experienced Director of Policy and Projects  to join the team in Canberra, on a full-time basis.

Reporting to the Deputy CEO, the Director of Policy and Projects will be responsible for providing strategic leadership and managing a small team to develop successful strategies and policies, and deliver successful projects that aim to inform and influence mental health reform, policy development and implementation. Applications close Wednesday 13 March.

Click here to find out more about the position.


Productivity Commission Inquiry News

Individual Submissions

With less than a month before submissions are due to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, it’s important to remember that individual submissions in the form of ‘Brief Comments’ can also be submitted and are already starting to be published.


For many in the mental health community, this may be your best avenue to tell your story and contribute to this once in a generation Inquiry. The Brief comments section is grouping submissions into the following seven categories:

•    Academics and researchers
•    User or consumer of mental health services or supports
•    Carers or family members
•    Mental Health workers
•    Other interested persons
•    Government or a Government agency
•    Provider of mental health services or supports

See below an example of a Brief Comment submission from a ‘User or consumer of mental health services or supports’:


“I am a retired school teacher and had my first episode in my late thirties. I had 2 young children and my husband was in a very demanding job. We both kept asking the necessary questions about what to do but the most pressing problem was the financial burden it placed on our lives. Numerous visits to doctors who didn’t bulk bill, referrals to psychologists and the never ending tinkering with drugs. Over the years I’ve spent thousands of dollars on my condition and am lucky because I had a job which could finance it, but what about those people who do not have the necessary funds. Through this inquiry, my wish is to have the financial aspects explored. E.G.,when one tablet doesn’t work and a new one is prescribed, can the cost be transferred instead of having to pay for, yet again, another script. At various times I’ve had a drawer full of drugs which have been discarded. For me this is the most distressing component of mental health….”


Mental Health News

Hearing Week: Funding for young deaf and hearing impaired Australians facing mental health risks

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, say the Morrison Government is investing a further $237,000 in programs for deaf and hearing-impaired teenagers at risk of mental health issues. The funds will support the work of Hear For You, a charity that has been addressing the mental health concerns of deaf and hearing impaired teenagers since 2008. This investment will assist Hear For You to improve the mental health of 9,000 deaf and hearing impaired teenagers across Australia.

Read More

Labor will establish a Headspace centre in Ocean Grove

Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health, Julie Collins, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health, Deborah O’Neill, said a Shorten Labor Government will create a new headspace centre in Ocean Grove to deliver early intervention mental health services for those aged 12 to 25 years. Labor knows that the level of mental ill health amongst young people across Corangamite is of persistent and increasing concern.

Read More

Funding announced to support younger veterans

More than $1 million worth of grants have been provided to organisations supporting the needs of younger veterans and their families. Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the grants, under the Supporting Younger Veterans (SYV) program, would assist with mental health training for veterans including a train-the-trainer qualification and an establishment of a Best Practice Framework for Peer Led Younger Veteran Wellbeing Programs. 
Read More




On Monday the Mental Health Australia office will be closed to celebrate the Canberra Day March Public Holiday.


On Tuesday I will be attending a Carer Reform Workgroup face-to-face meeting in Canberra.


While on Thursday Emma Coughlan will be in Melbourne for the NDIS National Mental Health Sector Reference Group Meeting


Member Profiles

Richmond Fellowship of Australia is a public company that confederates the independent state and territory Richmond Fellowships in Australia:  Richmond Fellowship Queensland, Richmond Fellowship Tasmania, Richmond Fellowship ACT and Richmond Fellowship Western Australia.  Key objectives of the confederation include contributing in educative and policy making forums that inform and enable mental health recovery.
Website -

The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) is the peak Victorian non-government organisation for people with lived experience of mental health or emotional issues. VMIAC works to educate the community about mental illness from a consumer perspective, and provide information and support for mental health consumers around the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). They also provide advocacy services to assist consumers and improve the mental health system. VMIAC’s vision is to create a world where all mental health consumers stand proud, live a life with choices honoured, rights upheld and these principles embedded in all aspects of society.
Website -



FECCA conference Call for Abstracts

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia’s (FECCA) biennial conference PURPOSE. LEADERSHIP. PROGRESS: 40 years and beyond, is taking place in Hobart Tasmania on 9-11 October 2019, and is Calling for Abstracts.

This year FECCA would like to hear from new speakers, young people and diverse voices that can articulate the challenges that impact on and issues that are important to people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. They want to hear from people who have a vision to shape our multicultural Australia.

Read more

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT Forum - Tue 19 Mar

Dr Elizabeth Moore will speak about her early impressions of feedback from consultations on developing a shared vision and identifying key priorities for Mental Health and Wellbeing
in the ACT. The forum is free and will take place from 12.00 - 2.00pm, on Tuesday 19 March 2019 in Civic.

Dr Moore has been a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists for over 25 years and has worked in public, private and community settings in five states and territories. Dr Moore also volunteers with a not for profit organisation involved in youth mental health and multicultural wellbeing. 
Read more

IAYMH 2019 - United for Global Change - Calling for Abstracts NOW

The 5th International Conference on Youth Mental Health; United for Global Change will be held in Brisbane, from 26–28 October 2019.

The International Association for Youth Mental Health (IAYMH) is a membership-based organisation for professionals, researchers, organisations, policy makers, young people and parents. IAYMH is calling for Abstracts NOW which are due before 18 March, 2019.
Read more

Royal Commission into abuse and violence for people with disabilities

Next Monday 11 March, information sheets and a survey will become available on the DSS Engage website seeking input on the Terms of Reference and guidance around barriers to participating. This opportunity will only be open for a week to 10 days for public input, so be sure to have your say.
Read more




Mental Health Australia is a proud member of an Alliance of national organisations leading change to promote and create mentally healthy workplaces – strengthening our community and our economy. Chaired by Lucy Brogden, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, the Alliance brings together business, unions, the mental health sector and regulators to promote mentally healthy workplaces. We know work has a profound impact on our mental health and with 12.6 million Australians employed, it is an idea place to prevent mental illness and help people recover when they are unwell.  

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small business, scott morrison, policy director, job, productivity commission