Written by Melissa Keller-Tuberg, Orygen Youth Research Council.
The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has been described as a once in a generation opportunity to transform a broken system. As the Commission itself has stated, its task is “not to patch and repair gaps but to enable and lead the creation of a new system”. As a youth advocate with lived experience of mental ill-health, I love and applaud this necessary and bold ambition. I believe the Royal Commission is not only an opportunity to enact system reform, but also one to engage the public with highly nuanced and meaningful discussions about mental health, and improve mental health literacy as a whole.
Over the last six months, I’ve been excited to be involved in developing Orygen’s response to the Royal Commission Interim Report. The opportunity to present my personal analysis of the report alongside Professor Patrick McGorry and in front of Minister Gabrielle Williams at Orygen’s Youth Mental Health Community of Practice launch in January was empowering. At this event, and through other youth participation opportunities around the Royal Commission, I’ve been heartened to witness a genuine interest and dedication to engaging young people and those who support them in bringing about a new and better system.
The Commission has done a fantastic job at engaging the lived-experience community so far – the Interim Report was the product of comprehensive community engagement, including 3250 submissions, 21 consultations and various public hearings. The power of this process was shown by the breadth and ambition of the nine initial recommendations published in the Interim Report. These ranged from establishing an Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre, to improving follow-up care for people following suicide attempts, and building Victoria’s first ever residential mental health service, designed and delivered by people with lived experience.
As the Commission develops its Final Report to be released in February 2021, there is an opportunity to use all of the incredible stories and perspectives gathered to educate the community about what the Royal Commission is discovering, why it is important and what its plans are for the future.
Previous public campaigns like ‘RU OK Day’ have been very successful in promoting positive messaging around starting conversations about mental health, but the rationales behind many of the Interim Report’s recommendations are not yet as widely understood. The rationale that individuals who have personally experienced the needs and struggles of navigating the current system are apt at recognising necessary areas and strategies for reform is increasingly recognised within the mental health field. However, there is an opportunity to build the broader community’s understanding and support for this.
To make the most of this opportunity to inform the community about the new mental health system and its importance, I encourage the Commission to consider creating accessible content about the report, such as in the form of infographics, news stories, blog posts, radio ads and social media posts. To increase engagement with this content, it could be created in partnership with consumers and mental health NGOs who have a strong connection with the lived experience and wider communities. This would ensure that the community could better understand and respond to the Commission’s recommendations, ultimately improving the effectiveness of the Commission’s work. This content could be strategically targeted towards different lived experience groups and the Australian public in order to encourage increased mental health literacy and community engagement with the Commission.
The Royal Commission provides a powerful opportunity to forge a new mental health system that responds to the needs of those experiencing mental ill-health. To ensure everyone in our community recognises the need for this reform, understands the plan to undertake it, and supports its implementation, the Commission needs an effective translation strategy to continue its genuine engagement with the community.