As the year ends, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy and relaxing holiday season.
For those who find this time of year stressful and isolating, please make time to look after yourself. Our friends at the Black Dog Institute have put together some helpful tips for staying mentally well over the holidays – read them here.
It’s been a huge year for all of us at the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales, and I am mindful that the great work we have achieved has been with the support and collaboration of our partners. I am very grateful for the many individuals with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, their families and kinship groups, as well as the organisations, local health districts, primary health networks, specialty health networks, NSW Health pillars, clinicians, and government agencies who have challenged us, supported us and worked alongside us in 2018.
This year, we received the results of our five-year statutory review and were heartened to hear the finding that the Commission had fulfilled its role and purpose. This review gave us an exciting chance to refocus and include the recommendations in our strategic plan – Key Directions 2018-2023 – to guide the next five years. It was also an opportunity for us to hear your feedback, and as a result we have committed to renewing our efforts in engaging more effectively with people with lived experience and the community. We have further developed our approach to co-design and co-production and look forward to embedding these principles more fully into our work in 2019.
The Commission spent time travelling around NSW and further afield to meet with the community and ensure that our work continues to be inspired and guided by the voices of people with lived experience of mental health issues and their families, kinship groups and carers. Highlights include a May visit to Armidale, where the Commission held a morning tea with community members and visited local services on the ground, as well as a series of community consultations on suicide prevention that took the Commission around NSW from Wagga Wagga, through Wollongong and up to Lismore. We have taken what we heard from communities and embedded this advice into the guiding principles in the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023 launched on 17 October, 2018.
In June, Aboriginal leaders from across the state gathered at the Commission to discuss how Aboriginal-led services improve their communities’ social and emotional wellbeing. It was a special day, with everyone involved sharing their knowledge and the ways they help community members to feel strong, supported and connected. We heard that Aboriginal communities want to know about Aboriginal-led models of care that improve the social and emotional wellbeing of community members. We are currently working with communities to document and share these models of care more widely.
This year also saw the release of two other several key reports, Paving the Way Home – Lessons from My Choice: Pathways to Community Living Initiative, which highlights the strategies and achievements to date of the NSW Government program led by the NSW Ministry of Health; and the Lived Experience Framework, which will act as a guide on how service providers can embed the insightful and powerful voice of lived experience into all aspects of service design and delivery in NSW.
A highlight of 2018 for me was Mental Health Month program of events held in October, which was our biggest to date. The Commission hosted a series of events aligned with this year’s theme of Share the Journey, including a morning tea at Customs House where guests could share a cuppa and a story as a start to break down the isolation and stigma around mental health issues. We also hosted a morning tea for the organisations who neighbour our Sydney offices, which was a unique opportunity to build friendships and Share the Journey with others working and volunteering in the mental health sector and beyond, including people with lived experience.
During Mental Health Month, we invited groups doing innovative suicide prevention work to attend Parliament House and showcase their initiatives to Members of Parliament. A dozen organisations took part, many of which featured work specifically to support people at a higher risk of suicide, including young people; Aboriginal people; people from regional and remote areas; and people who identify as LGBTIQ. The Showcase was a pinnacle moment for the people in NSW with lived experience of suicide attempts or losing a loved one to suicide, with the NSW Government taking the opportunity to announce a $90 million investment into suicide prevention strategies in the coming years.
We know that hundreds of individuals, organisations and community groups across the State that held their own Mental Health Month activities, and we are grateful for their passion and commitment for improving the journey for people in their local communities.
In November 2018, the Commission said farewell to two of our inaugural Deputy Commissioners, Dr Robyn Shields AM and Ms Fay Jackson. They have contributed enormously to the NSW community in these roles and have championed the voice of lived experience at every opportunity. The Commission would not have gotten this far without their input and passion. We wholeheartedly thank them for their service and wish them well as they journey into new horizons. Read more about their work here.
Finally, I hope this break gives you the opportunity to reflect on your achievements over the past year. Whatever steps you have taken in your personal or professional journey, I encourage you all to take the time to think about your experiences and feel proud of your accomplishments.
I look forward to continuing to build opportunities to work together and improve mental health for all people in NSW in 2019.