S63: SYMPOSIUM: Community Mental Health in Australia

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By December 13, 2022 No Comments

Authors: Hans Pols, Paul Rhodes, Gemma Smart, Holly Kemp, Asha Zappa, Ruah Grace, Ian Shoebridge, Meg Smith

Year: 2022

Event: 2022 TheMHS Conference

Subject: research, lived experience, community

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

Abstract: SYMPOSIUM: Community Mental Health in Australia: Past, Present, and Future

In Australia, deinstitutionalisation commenced in the 1960s. At the same time, mental hospitals, community mental health services, non-government associations, and other groups established new and innovative services in the community, which initially served individuals discharged from mental hospitals. Later, they provided community-based services to all individuals with severe mental illness. In the 1980s and 1990s, Australia was a world leader in community mental health and welcomed visitors to observe how they were organised. In light of current critiques of Australia’s mental health services, we aim to investigate Australia’s legacy in community mental health to explore future mental health initiatives.

History as Social Action: Experiments in Co-Production and Mental Health Research
Gemma Lucy Smart, Holly Kemp, and Paul Rhodes

This presentation serves to illustrate the collaboration between lived experience academic researchers and conventional academic researchers (a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a few historians) in archiving, interpreting, and putting-to-work the history of deinstitutionalisation, social psychiatry, community mental health, and consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement activism in Australia since the 1960s. Both in our research and in the nature of this presentation, we aim to challenge epidemic injustice and an orthodoxy that situates knowledge as objective, generalisable, and reducible; and instead engage with the audience from a narrated, narrative, and dialogical position. This approach mirrors both the research culture/method we have been using and the politics of the consumer movement and Mad Liberation. We will describe how we have developed a democratic activist community for our research project, grounded in the philosophies of 1. Co-production, 2. Open Dialogue 3. Critical Oral History and 4. Witnessing for Social Action. This presentation consists of a structured dialogue between lived experience and conventional scholars.

Community Mental Health in Australia: Alliances between Mental Health Professionals, Mental Health Activists, and Consumers
Hans Pols

In the 1970s, Geoff Whitlam’s government started to make funds available for initiatives in community health. Several initiatives started to spring up throughout Australia, often as collaborative efforts between mental health personnel, mental health activists, carers, and consumers. The pioneering work of ABC journalist Anne Deveson, whose son had schizophrenia, are well-known: through her initiatives, the Schizophrenia Fellowship was established in every state. The mental health personnel involved generally were psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers, who were associated with mental hospitals. Most of the new initiatives in mental health distinguished themselves by encouraging the involvement of consumers, who came to play a key role in advocacy, public health education, and running community mental health services.

On a Scale of One to Nothing About Us Without Us
Ruah Grace, Asha Zappa, Holly Kemp, Ian Shoebridge

Lived experience researchers from the Re;Minding History research project (investigating the history of community mental health in Australia) discuss key innovations that can be considered improvements in mental health services from a consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement perspective. This presentation will explore the ways complexity has been navigated in the past, and how this can help us embed and integrate consumer involvement in contemporary approaches to mental health. The panel will share stories from people involved in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement in Australia, who have been interviewed by the research team, uncover the challenges they faced as well as the unique and creative ways they navigated these. We will identify past initiatives that need to be revived that resonate with contemporary innovations, and the histories of which are at risk of being lost. For example: consumer operated services, recovery oriented service delivery, peer supported open dialogue, and relational recovery.

The History of Community Mental Health in Australia from a Participant’s Perspective
Meg Smith

In this presentation, I will reflect on the early days of mental health activism in the 1980s, and the legacies of mental health reform during the 1980s and 1990s today. At the time, there were several outspoken social movements such as the feminist and the disability rights movement. Consumer activism started at this time and consumer activists aimed to shape the way mental health services were provided. Many of the early initiatives in community mental health and the reform of mental health services in general appeared quite radical at the time, yet several changes were incorporated in mental health services later.

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