The NSW Mental Health Commission travelled to the Illawarra this month to meet with local community members and services and hear how changes to the mental health system are progressing. The visit was timed to coincide with the first of a broad range of community consultations to inform a Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW.
As part of the visit, NSW Deputy Mental Health Commissioner Karen Burns and fellow Commission staff hosted an afternoon tea for people who live with mental illness and their families in Wollongong on Thursday 15 March. Approximately 25 people came and shared their experiences of hospital-based and community-based services, as well as other issues affecting them such as the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The Commission also met with services on the ground including Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District. The District’s mental health team provided an update on its mental health workforce; its latest initiatives to provide better care in the community for people with mental illness; and its response to the 2017 state-wide review of seclusion and restraint, among other issues.
In addition the Commission met with Coordinare South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network (PHN), to hear about what mental health services it is funding for the region in the next year; with the NSW Department of Education, to hear about how the Wellbeing Framework for schools is being implemented in the Illawarra; and with members of Our Place Illawarra Shoalhaven, a collective impact initiative that aims to break the cycle of disadvantage and support local communities to be happier and healthier.
The Commission undertakes four community visits every year to different parts of NSW, to hear about how the mental health system is working ‘on the ground’. A report about the Commission's visit to the Illawarra will be made publicly available on our website and distributed to local services and decision-makers. Other recent visits undertaken by the Commission include one to Griffith and Wagga Wagga in October 2017 and one to the Vietnamese-speaking community of south western Sydney in November 2017.