NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey recently joined a host of world leaders in mental health at the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership Exchange 2018.
Held in Stockholm from 28 May to 1 June, the conference brought together some of the sharpest minds in the field – including people with lived experience - to solve problems, share innovations, and make connections that will drive mental health reforms.
Ms Lourey said one of the highlights was learning about Scotland’s innovative Distress Brief Intervention, a trial project of a new service that provides immediate care for people experiencing any kind of distress. People can access the service without a referral and are connected within 24 hours to targeted support that lasts for up to 14 days. The service is being funded by the National Health Service and trialled in four locations across Scotland between 2016-2021, with a review of its effectiveness underway. The intervention aligns with many of the goals in Living Well: A Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW 2014-2024, such as providing support early when people feel unwell to prevent them from experiencing a mental health crisis and needing hospital-based care.
Other sessions focused on financing better mental health care, preventing youth suicide, supporting Indigenous wellbeing, building bridges between carers and services, and much more.
Ms Lourey said the conference was especially valuable because of its focus on leadership.
“In every session, we were asked ‘what are you going to do about this? What steps are you going to take when you get home? Who are you going to follow up with about what you have learned?,” Ms Lourey said.
“Since coming back home, I have taken steps to put what I learned into practice, including contacting multiple departments across NSW Government about their spending on mental health supports to start a project to get an overall picture of where we are investing in mental health and wellbeing.”
Ms Lourey said being able to compare NSW’s approach to improving mental health care with the approaches taken in other parts of the world was also useful.
“IIMHL 2018 was a reminder that everyone, everywhere is striving to help their citizens live well in their communities, and no one has it figured out perfectly yet,” Ms Lourey said.
“The mental health reforms we are rolling out in NSW and Australia were of great interest to others around the world. While we certainly have much more to do, the conference provided confirmation that Living Well has put us on the right track.”
Ms Lourey will prepare a full report on the conference for the NSW Minister for Mental Health, the Hon. Tanya Davies MP, to ensure what she learned is formally passed to the NSW Government.
Learn more about the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership, including the Leadership Exchanges that are held every 18 months.