The Mental Health Commission of NSW was created in 2012 to ensure that reforms to mental health support reflected the needs, wishes and hopes of people who experience mental illness, and their families and carers.
In addition, the Commission always takes into account the special issues that affect Aboriginal people and communities, those living in regional, rural and remote parts of the state, people whose mental illness is accompanied by drug and alcohol use, and those who come into contact with the justice system.
As the Commission approached the task of developing a draft Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW it wanted to be sure that everyone in the community had an opportunity for their views to be heard. It developed an innovative series of face-to-face and electronic consultations involving more than 2,000 people. This has allowed us to collect the broadest, most representative range of views from the community, mental health workforce and policy specialists who have contributed vast personal and professional experience.
The consultations around the development of the draft Strategic Plan were conducted around the concept of 'journeys'. The journeys were based on typical experiences of mental health and mental illness across the life course, from infants and young children through to older people. They reflect the fact that mental illness has a trajectory with different phases. Recognition, intervention and support at the right time can alter this path. They were designed to promote thinking about people – not about services, systems or funding.
In August 2013, more than 100 people came together in Sydney for a day-long workshop to refine the journey concept. They included people with a lived experience of mental illness, carers, community-managed service providers and representatives of government agencies.
These people, from diverse backgrounds and professional disciplines, then broke out into separate groups according to interest and expertise to discuss individual journeys in more detail – becoming the core of journey teams which met on subsequent occasions. They looked for connections in different and traditionally separate functions, in order to find new solutions. They were joined in online collaboration spaces by members of the community, who commented directly on their work in progress.
- built an understanding of the issues and opportunities within each life stage
- developed person-centred understandings about the successes and difficulties of our present systems of support, to identify where in each Journey we can make differences that matter
- turned these opportunities into prioritised actions, mindful of capacity, limited resources and the complexity of fundamental change.
The Commission also visited rural communities to test with them how the journeys resonated in regions with high rates of mental illness and social disadvantage.
The result is the chapters that follow: inclusive, authentic portraits of how our present system of mental health supports applies in practice to people at various stages in their lives, and ideas for how it could be made better. The full suite of original journey papers developed by the working groups is available online.
The Commission is confident that the directions for reform truly represent a community consensus, and a mandate for real change that will benefit people who live with mental illness.
The preceeding image shows a map of NSW showing the towns the Commission visited as part of its consultation for the development of the Strategic Plan - including:
Albury, Wagga Wagga, Narrandera, Leeton, Griffith, Dareton, Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Moree, Dubbo, Wellington, Mudgee, Orange, Katoomba, Penrith, Blacktown, Sydney, Wollongong, Nowra, Queanbeyan, Goulburn, Gosford, Newcastle, Tamworth, Inverell, Armidale, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Ballina.
- 1,000 people signed for the Strategic Plan online consultation project
- 2,100 people attended face-to-face consultations, workshops and forums
- 880 consumers and carers were involved in consultations