The NSW Mental Health Commission turned five years old this year. While we paused briefly to note some of our achievements, the year was as busy as ever.
We started it with a major milestone, playing co-host to nearly 300 leaders in mental health from across the world for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) Exchange. While there was plenty of research to inform our conversations, the conference was not an academic exercise. Lived experience leaders filled the program and the audience, pressing the need for action now and full of ideas of what form that action could take. If you have not yet watched Deputy Commissioner Fay Jackson’s keynote presentation, I urge you to view it. It was an honest and re-energising reminder for me of why we must stay the course on this long journey to improve NSW’s mental health system.
From international gatherings to local ones, the Commission spent time as usual travelling around NSW to meet with families and services and stay up to date with what is happening ‘on the ground’. Highlights include our May visit to the Clarence Valley, where local leaders shared their Our Healthy Clarence suicide prevention and wellbeing initiative; our May visit to Orange; our October visit to Griffith; and our November visit to the Vietnamese-speaking community in south western Sydney. All provided great learnings that we will share and act upon next year. Our five ‘Check-Up from the Neck-Up’ events held from Sydney to Narrandera saw us working in collaboration with Local Health Districts and community-based service providers to build communities’ mental health literacy and chip away at stigma. We thank these services and local organisations for their support.
In June, individuals from across the state travelled to Sydney for the biggest gathering of families and carers of people with mental illness that we have ever had. The resulting videos and report giving a clear voice to families’ needs and their solutions for change. Please share them with your local member of parliament, advocacy group, mental health service and more!
This year also saw our release of four reports: Living Well: Community perspectives of change, in which we highlighted the views and concerns of the community about changes to the mental health system; Review of transparency and accountability of mental health funding to health services, which focused on the system issues for service funding; Towards a just system, which highlighted changes needed for people with mental illness and cognitive impairment who come into contact with the criminal justice system; and Living well in later life, on how we must support wellbeing as we age.
Perhaps the biggest highlight for me came towards the end of the year, on World Mental Health Day, when the Commission had the opportunity to invite over a dozen youth mental health services to Macquarie Street for our annual Parliamentary Showcase. The event saw service providers, consumer workers, and a young man who gave an extraordinary address about his own recovery, able to meet directly with the Premier, Minister for Mental Health and other MPs to demonstrate the life changing work they do every day. This was the third in what is becoming an annual event. It allows us to focus on the positives of our mental health care system rather than the deficits; on the ordinary people doing extraordinary things; and on the practices we want to encourage, rather than those we must leave behind.
As we close another year, I encourage you all to recall your achievements from the year. Whether it was a little step in your own recovery, a big overhaul of your service delivery, on being there to support someone going through a tough time – let us all pocket the learnings away, rest if you can over these next few weeks, and keep building and growing and improving together in 2018.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and peaceful holiday period,