Authors: Chris Burns
Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference
Subject: FEATURED SYMPOSIUM: Turning the Spotlight on Community Mental Health Systems
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Chris Burns: An experienced advocate and strategic planner, Commissioner Burns is a former military officer and consultant in defence and international relations. Most recently, he was the CEO of South Australia’s defence industry association successfully campaigning for the Australian Navy’s next fleet of submarines and surface ships to be built in Australia. He has a passion for improving services and ensuring people with lived experience of mental illness, their families and carers are central to the Commission’s work and ongoing mental health reform. Commissioner Burns is taking a whole-of-person, whole-of-life, whole-of-community and whole-of-government approach to the development of South Australia’s Mental Health Strategic Plan. In leading this key task of the Commission, his focus is firmly on strengthening the mental wellbeing of South Australians.
In January 2019 the Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health looked at The Social and Economic Benefits of Improving Mental Health, as “many people are still not getting the support they need to maintain good mental health or recover from episodes of mental ill-health” (Issues Paper, January 2019). As a follow on from TheMHS Summer Forum held earlier this year this session will focus on several issues that were highlighted by Forum participants.
Community mental health systems are founded upon universal human rights, with emphasis on respect, integrity and compassion. Community mental health care should be accessible when and where needed, be non-traumatising and enable continuity of care. TheMHS is pleased to welcome each of the Mental Health Commissions (Australia and New Zealand) to the conference where they will turn the spotlight on one or more of the following issues:
1. Roles for people with lived experience of mental ill-health
Develop a standardised support/training for peer workers, prioritising recruitment and support from all life stages, including youth, in peer working roles.
2. Respect for human rights, equality and diversity
Community mental health workers can reduce the power imbalance in mental health systems by understanding the multiple intersections of experience that make up the whole person at the centre of whole of life mental health. Aligning policies, standards and practice across Australia and across New Zealand with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
3. How to develop the workforce
Building leadership capabilities within the community mental health system so that all voices can be heard. A priority should be placed on active outreach to all life stages, including youth.
4. Longer-term funding
Longer-term funding for contracts and research that enable collaboration rather than competition to ensure better continuity of care and research development.
5. Service integration and collaboration
Service integration should be consumer-focussed, not provider-focussed, working towards objectives specific for each person.
6. Community Engagement
Priorities include an ongoing presence in schools at all levels of education; the expansion of existing Mindframe guidelines for media discussion around mental health issues; and making space in public dialogue for people with lived experience to tell their stories.
7. Research – what, when, whom
The development of a national body could enable the timely distribution of research findings, encourage collaboration, and set national research priorities. Research questions should be determined in consultation with people with a lived experience of mental ill-health, including consumers whose recovery has taken place ‘outside’ of existing mental health services.
8. Coordinating national, state and territory community mental health systems
This must be based on the understanding that a thriving community mental health system is complementary to hospital-based approaches to mental health care.
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