The NSW Mental Health Commissioner, John Feneley, and key Commission staff recently visited Port Stephens to learn about the community’s experience of mental health responses in the area.
The Commission visited the area in the Hunter region as part of its 2016 series of community visits. Each year, the Commission visits communities across NSW to learn about how services, organisations and community groups are implementing mental health reform and to meet consumers, their families and carers, and front-line workers.
Mr Feneley spoke about the Commission’s projects and role in mental health reform at a community forum hosted by Kate Washington MP, the NSW Member for Port Stephens. The forum provided an opportunity for local residents to hear from mental health services available in the Port Stephens region, and raise awareness of the importance of mental health in the week of R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day.
The forum was well attended with over 150 guests visiting Nelsons Bay Digger Club on the night.
Family members and carers of people with a lived experience of mental illness were invited to an afternoon tea hosted by the Commission in Newcastle the following day. Over 30 carers viewed the Commission’s video about mental health perspectives of NDIS, filmed in the Hunter region, and had a chance to speak to the Commissioner and staff about their experiences.
Commission staff also attended meetings with Port Stephens Council and its Youth Advisory Council, Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network, residents’ advocacy group Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth (COPSY), the Hunter New England Local Health District and the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network, along with other local services and individuals making a difference in mental health.
Mr Feneley said, “It was a privilege to get to know such an engaged and committed community. I was extremely impressed by the sense of inclusion across the region, with a strong shared emphasis on the issues of younger people and those living with disadvantage. I hope this is just the start of a continuing relationship between the Commission and people in the Port Stephens and Hunter districts. By understanding more deeply the experiences of communities like these, the Commission can advocate more effectively for effective mental health responses at all levels.”