S08: WORKSHOP: Engaging with Community

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By October 19, 2023 No Comments

Authors: Kimberley Wriedt, Shehani De Silva & Summayyah Sadiq-Ojibara,

Year: 2023

Event: 2023 The MHS conference - Adelaide

Subject: Engaging with community: Introducing a co-designed resource for workers to strengthen engagement with diverse communities

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

Whilst access to good mental health is a ‘human right’, the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System confirmed that diverse communities experience many barriers to good mental health and wellbeing. These include discrimination and stigma related to both mental illness, as well as their diverse backgrounds, identities and attributes. The Royal Commission also found that people from diverse communities are often at greater risk of mental health challenges, and may have trouble navigating and accessing inclusive, responsive and culturally safe services.
Whist mental health services have made efforts in the past to engage with communities to improve mental health and wellbeing, and access to care, these efforts are often seen as tokenistic by communities. Community engagement, in its true form, is rarely embedded into organisational culture, and connections between services and local communities are often missing. As such, solutions to community issues are frequently framed by services, rather than communities themselves, and fail to address the issue from the community’s perspective.
We would argue that both mental health organisations and mental health workers have a role to play in engaging with communities. However, community engagement is rarely seen by workers as such, nor is resourced and funded at an organisational level. Furthermore, without an understanding of the skills and practices needed for this work, we run the risk of community engagement becoming a ‘buzzword’ and these tokenistic gestures continuing.
In the backdrop of The Royal Commission, mental health services have a unique opportunity to rethink and redesign themselves to address these historical, and systemic inequities. Community engagement approaches are key to driving this work, in collaboration with communities themselves. This will lead to services becoming inclusive, responsive and culturally safe, and ensure these inequities become a thing of the past.
Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, a state-wide transcultural service, undertook a co-designed project to create a suite of resources to support the mental health workforce undertake community engagement work with diverse communities. The project, undertaken over 2 year period, drew on the expertise, experiences, and perspectives of many people, including those with lived or living experience of mental health issues, those caring for a person with mental health issues, mental health workers across various settings and roles, community engagement workers, community members, peer workers, etc.
The resources produced through the project provide a framework for undertaking community engagement and community capacity building. They also aim to support workers and organisations to understand the skills, practices and organisational responses required for undertaking and sustaining community engagement in mental health settings.
In the workshop, participants will
- Consider key concepts that underpin community engagement work for culturally safe practice
- Explore a range of practice strategies for engaging with diverse communities, in a variety of mental health settings
- Reflect on and discuss some of the key challenges and realities when undertaking community engagement work in mental health settings
- Gain a deeper understanding of community engagement from the lens and perspective of a community advisory group member
- Identify how whole of organisation approaches are key to supporting community engagement work.
- Be introduced to the co-design process that was used to guide this project
The workshop will be structured in the following format:
- An introduction to the Project and the co-design process used to develop the Resource (10 minutes)
- A launch of the resources produced, including a screening of a sample of the video resources developed through the project (20 minutes)
- An opportunity to interact with the range of resources produced (includes hard copy materials, podcasts, etc.). This will take place through small group discussions using a ‘World Café’ approach to support interactive conversations about the skills and practices require to embed a community engagement approach in mental health settings (30mins)
- Audience & Project Member Dialogue – opportunity for audience and project members to share reflections and discuss the project, including the co-design process, resources produced, and gaps and opportunities for community engagement approaches in mental health (30 minutes)
Learning Objective
-A community engagement approach is an important, but undervalued practice in mental health. It requires a number of skills and practices from both mental health workers and organisations.
-A community engagement approach offers mental health services a unique opportunity to design services that address barriers experienced by diverse communities.
Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (2021). An Integrated Approach to Diversity Equity and Inclusion in Mental Health Service Provision in Victoria: A Position Paper. Victorian Transcultural Mental Health.
State of Victoria, Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, Final Report, Volume 3: Promoting inclusion and addressing inequities, Parl Paper No. 202, Session 2018–21 (document 4 of 6).

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