People across NSW are starting to see evidence of positive change in the mental health system, according to a community survey conducted in late 2016 by the Commission.
The results, which show the Living Well reforms are gaining traction, indicate the greatest progress is in a shift towards person-centred support and an increasing emphasis on recovery; one-third of the survey’s 1510 respondents said they had observed improvements in these domains. People had also seen an increase in the amount of information available about mental health conditions.
Less positively, only 16 per cent thought access to services and supports had improved, while 23 per cent said this had worsened. Others thought this was unchanged or did not know.
The online survey drew on the Commission’s extensive database of individuals and organisations from across NSW with a personal or professional interest in mental health. The sample is of people who have previously indicated an interest in the Commission’s work, and may not be representative of the wider community, but the results are nevertheless likely to be indicative of many people’s experiences.
The NSW Mental Health Commissioner, John Feneley, said, “The insights people have shared allow the Commission to ‘take the temperature’ of mental health reform in our state. These results show that culture change, which is essential to the Living Well reforms, is starting to gain momentum and people who experience mental health challenges are being shown more respect. That is excellent, but it is clear that in this and other areas we still have much further to go. I thank all the participants for taking the time to offer their thoughts and observations, which will help keep us on track as we move forward with the Living Well agenda.”
One-third of respondents were consumers while just over a quarter were family members and carers of a person with a lived experience. Most of the remainder were people who work in the system as clinicians or in other roles.
It was particularly encouraging that 5 per cent of those surveyed said they were Aboriginal – considerably higher than the proportion of Aboriginal people in NSW, Mr Feneley said: “Because Aboriginal people generally have poorer mental health outcomes, it is essential their voices are prominent in community conversations mental health reform. I am very pleased that Aboriginal people have come forward to tell us about their experiences of the system.”
People working in the community-managed sector were generally the most optimistic about system change while those working in the private sector were least likely to say things had improved. This may be a reflection of the community-managed sector’s key role in providing person-centred psychosocial supports, while private sector mental health organisations are typically focused on more traditional clinical services.