2 December 2015


The NSW Mental Health Commissioner, John Feneley, launched a paper about medication and mental illness today that reveals the significance of the lived experience of medication use in informing improved clinical practice.

The paper was developed in collaboration with the Commission’s Pharmacotherapy Advisory Group, comprising consumers, carers, clinicians, academics and allied health professionals, and provides a raw account of people’s experiences of medication, citing direct commentary from consumers and carers experiencing the good and the not so good reality of psychotropic medication use.

Mr Feneley said the Commission’s intention in understanding perspectives on medication and mental illness was to appreciate consumers’ and carers’ experiences to shape decisions about medication and mental health.

“By understanding consumers’ and carers’ lived experience of medication use, we can constructively evaluate to what extent the system is responding safely and sensitively to people’s needs,” he said.

Through an open submission process the Commission received more than 200 broad ranging responses from consumers, carers and clinicians from metro, rural and regional areas. Respondents from culturally and linguistically diverse communities were represented, as were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, older people’s groups and young people.

Key themes are:

  • Consumers do not want the first and only treatment option for their mental illness to be a prescription. They want to explore alternative options and be fully informed about them.
  • Medication side effects need to be actively and thoroughly monitored and, as far as possible, controlled.
  • Treatments work best when there is a genuine productive relationship between consumers and carers and their clinicians.
  • Consideration needs to be given to potential barriers to understanding, such as literacy levels and cultural and linguistic diversity that may require support to ensure that proper communication is taking place.
  • Mental health consumers are likely to be economically disadvantaged, so out-of-pocket costs should not determine access to medication.

The publication makes a case for change on several fronts, and emphasises that to be effective, change must ensure that the experience of consumers and carers should be valued and never ignored.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that medications, while presenting enormous benefits and opportunities, should be seen in the context of the whole person and that consumer and carers’ needs and views must be listened to and respected,” Mr Feneley said.

Read the paper: Medication and mental illness perspectives Nov 2015.pdf

View the consultation process for the research.



Event details:
Date: Wednesday 2 December 2015
Time: 10:00am – 1.30am
Venue: Collective Purpose Hub, Level 5, 80 William St, Woolloomooloo

Media enquiries:
Lisa Sandrk, NSW Mental Health Commission
E: lisa.sandrk@mhc.nsw.gov.au | P: 02 9859 5228 | M: 0421 067 953

Gabrielle Lloyde, NSW Mental Health Commission
E: gabrielle.lloyde@mhc.nsw.gov.au | P: 02 9859 5203 | M: 0408 170 001

About the Mental Health Commission of NSW
The Mental Health Commission of NSW was established under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 and came into operation on 1 July 2012.

The Commission is an independent statutory authority established with the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and improving the mental health system and the mental health and well-being of the people of New South Wales. In all its work the Commission aims to reflect the experience of people who live with mental illness, their families and carers.

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Last updated: 21 June 2017