Welcome to the website that, like savebarrett.org before it, aims to advocate on behalf of those dealing with severe and complex adolescent mental health issues in Queensland.

After the public rallied in support of the Barrett community over the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre at Wacol in 2013/14, it has become evident that this area of mental illness – and the services required to enable those affected to lead the best lives possible – remains largely misunderstood … even amongst the most highly trained mental health clinicians. So our objective is to achieve greater understanding – for all involved.

This issue is as severe and complex as the illnesses that it encapsulates. Most people who live and work in this area are simply trying to do their best to minimise suffering and maximise recovery. We join them in that sense of purpose and, in doing so, propose that it is through collaboration that the best outcomes will be obtained. When adolescents, families, friends, carers, clinicians, educators, allied health staff, government representatives, private service providers and the wider community come together with mutual respect, motivated to ensure the best support is available, young people have the best chance to heal.

This site is one small way to try and deepen the understanding that’s needed …

  • It will provide information on what has happened, what is needed, what is planned.
  • It will share links to other resources, entities and agencies.
  • It will suggest ways – big and small – that anyone can help those who benefit so much from just knowing that people really care.
  • It will try to bring people together – encourage acknowledgement of experience, sharing of information, appreciation of insights.

All so that a group of vulnerable people who have previously been (intentionally or unintentionally) overlooked will have access to the kind of help that will make a positive difference to their lives. If any of us can do anything to support those people, we will have done something truly valuable.

.

This site is in honour of Talieha, Will and Caitlin … three shining lights who will never fade.

.

Advertisements

Mental Health the MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE to Young People

The Annual Mission Australia Youth Survey has, for the first time in its history, found that the most important issue to Australian young people is MENTAL HEALTH.

The survey report reveals that concerns about mental health have doubled since 2015 and tripled since 2011. Other top issues of national concern included alcohol and drugs and equity and discrimination. … Many of the personal concerns reported by young people relate to their own mental health, including coping with stress, body image and depression, and mental health was also identified by many young people as a possible barrier to achieving their work or study goals after school. This reinforces that much more needs to be done to ensure that young people can access the right mental health supports when they need them.
From Highlights from the 2017 Youth Survey at https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/research-evaluation/youth-survey

This only serves to emphasise how vital the right mental health supports” for young people are and that including young people themselves in the process of developing these services is the only way to ensure that what is available meets their needs. This means that the contributions of those with direct experience of caring for young people with mental health issues is essential as not only can severe and/or complex youth mental health issues unfortunately prohibit the active involvement of some young people themselves but carers and families have their own needs and issues and clinical professionals in treatment roles have valuable perspectives.
Working TOGETHER –  respecting and valuing the input of every individual with relevant experience – will always achieve the best outcomes. And that’s what Australia’s young people need.

 

HOW TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Any young person or carer in Queensland who is not currently making an active contribution to the PLANNING of the BEST services possible to support young people with mental health issues can do so if they wish. To find out ways to directly participate, contact HEALTH CONSUMERS QUEENSLAND via:

EMAIL TO LEONIE SANDERSON (the Engagement Advisor specifically for Youth Mental Health): Leonie.Sanderson@hcq.org.au
PHONE: 07 3012 9090
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/healthconsumersqueensland

NOTE: There are always ways that your privacy and identity can be protected should that be a priority.
The range of contribution/involvement approaches allow for different levels and types of commitment. These span online surveys or email/phone comments via HCQ  TO active membership of committees/groups/workshops to achieve specific objectives.

The severeyouthmentalhealth website also endeavours to keep people updated as to particular activities underway via the Get Involved! page

 

The full Mission Australia report, along with
  • an infographics document of 2 pages which illustrates the key findings of the survey and
  • an analysis which compares responses from major cities and regional areas
is available from the Mission Australia website here

In addition, news reports with summary information and regional relevance are accessible via the links below:

The Brisbane Times – Mental Health the Number Issue for Young Queenslanders

NewsCorp – Young Australians worry most about mental health, Mission Australia survey finds

The World Today, ABC – Mental health ‘biggest national issue’ for young people – survey (audio)

The Educator – Students’ mental health concerns double since 2015 – survey

The West Australian – Mental health an increasing concern for young West Aussies, survey reveals

 

If you feel that information in this post may be useful/interesting to others who might not be regular visitors to severeyouthmentalhealth.org, please use the social media buttons below to share. Thanks! 

*

 

 

NATIONAL Developments in Mental Health Services

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUICIDE PREVENTION MONITORING AND REPORTING FRAMEWORK

The National Mental Health Commission is developing a long-term monitoring and reporting framework to bring a national perspective to mental health and suicide prevention through the lens of consumers and carers and their experiences. This will enable the Commission to deliver an independent, consistent and comprehensive account of reform progress and support the Commission’s new role to monitor and report the implementation of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (see next item for more on the Plan).

CONSULTATION

The national consultation process on the draft Framework (being conducted from 16 October to 13 November 2017 and involving workshops in capital cities across Australia) will engage a broad cross-section of stakeholders in government, primary health networks, mental health peak bodies and service providers and professional bodies with consumers and carers seen as key representatives with invaluable input to provide.
SO YOU CAN BE DIRECTLY INVOLVED!
Attendees of the workshops will receive a copy of the draft Framework at least one week in advance and an on-line portal for submissions will also be conducted during this timeframe.

The aim is for the Commission to receive targeted feedback on the draft Framework’s priorities, potential gaps, and the availability of data to support the monitoring and reporting of mental health and suicide prevention in Australia.

This consultation NEEDS the voices of those with LIVED EXPERIENCE.

 

The Brisbane workshop is from 9.30am – 2.00pm on Monday 30 October and Hotel Jen on Roma Street, Brisbane and attendance is FREE. If you’d like to register to attend, you can go directly to the booking page at this link or for more information about this or other workshop locations, contact vanessa.d’souza@mentalhealthcommission.gov.au or via www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au

Online Consultation Survey

For those who can’t attend the workshop, you can provide your input via the online survey here. Or if you’d like to enquire about other ways to contribute, Nous Group (who are working with the Commission to develop the national Framework) can be contacted on nhmc.mrf@nousgroup.com.au.

 

RELEASE OF FIFTH NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH AND SUICIDE PREVENTION PLAN

With seemingly little publicity, Australia’s Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan was released on 14 October. The press release*  indicates that:

A particular focus of the Plan is addressing eating disorders. These can have a catastrophic impact on both individuals and their families. It will be a personal priority as we frame further policy in the future. The Plan includes eight nationally agreed priority areas and 32 coordinated actions for the next five years with a view to achieving an integrated mental health system. A key priority area is strengthening regional integration of mental health services to support more effective treatments for those in need.

[* The press release also mentions HEAD TO HEALTH, the federal government’s digital mental health resources site. It’s a very user-friendly interface where consumers and carers can access a range of service providers, support for specific mental health issues etc. so you might want to check it out.]

So, as stated above, since the role of the NMHC is to monitor and report the implementation of the plan, those ‘on the ground’ are in a key position to provide input on if those tasks are being carried out effectively. So ongoing/intermittment contact with the activities of the NMHC will be valuable.  On the home page of the National Mental Health Commission, there’s a ‘Get Involved’ box where you can sign up to receive eNews updates so that could be a useful way to stay informed.

OR …

BECOME A QUEENSLAND REP FOR THE NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMER AND CARER FORUM

The NMHCCF provides a mechanism for mental health consumers and carers to foster partnerships and to ensure input of consumers and carers into the activities of the mental health sector, including policy, service delivery and evaluation of reform in Australia. And the Queensland Mental Health Commission is overseeing the recruitment of:

  • a Queensland CONSUMER representative and
  • a Queensland CARER representative

General information on these roles – which are remunerated – can be found here and the Operating Guidelines for the NMHCCF (including Terms of Reference for the rep roles) are here. The closing date for Expressions of Interest in the roles is 17 November.

*

One thing that must be said after all these opportunities for involvement are listed is that WE KNOW that those directly affected by severe and complex youth mental health issues are rarely in a position to be able to attend workshops, regular meetings or commit to an engagement role on an ongoing basis. So we will always try and find ways that you, within the context of your lives, can provide feedback – whether it be via online surveys, direct contact (phone/email) with those managing a consultation process OR by utilising the amazingly dedicated services of Health Consumers Queensland as a conduit. Leonie Sanderson’s role is to represent the needs of those affected in this area so you can get in touch with her for her advice on how your own experiences and ideas can be communicated to those who can utilise those to change service provision and attitudes. We can’t avoid working with bureaucracies, large business-like entities and others in official capacities who don’t always have a true understanding of the daily lives of people in the cohort for which they’re planning. These people are the ones who can make the services what they need to beSo we’ll always be endeavouring to find ways that those who LIVE severe adolescent mental issues can pass on their vital insights to those who provide the services available to support the people whose needs are so great.


 

Stage II of development of improved services begins

With the first stage of the implementation of the Barrett Inquiry recommendations predominantly completed (as Rec #1 requires a review across Queensland Health and not just in relation to youth mental health, the acceptance of the related report is still pending) it’s worth looking back on how things progressed in relation to consumer/carer involvement, thanks to the Health Consumers Queensland video put together by Leonie Sanderson. Another very interesting video on how things have progressed is that of the first Plenary Session at HCQ’s Annual Forum where the initial stage of the co-design process for youth mental health services is the focus.

There seems to be unanimous agreement on the success so far of the involvement of those with lived experience – particularly in relation to the value placed on and respect given to consumer/carer participants. So the natural progression has been that the new committees and working groups currently being put together to work on the next stage of service development will again include a number of consumer and carer representatives.  Following the call for Expressions of Interest from people interested in taking on roles in the upcoming process, the resulting group of individuals selected has created a useful mix of those who were involved with the initial stage and new contributors. This bodes well for input that will represent a range of perspectives as well as the positive outcomes that can come from the productive combination of fresh ideas and experience.

Orientation Meeting

In order to acquaint all the successful consumer/carer reps for the next stage with
(a) the upcoming process
(b) each other and
(c) the relevant government staff members (from the Education Department and Capital Works as well as, of course, from Queensland Health)
an Orientation Meeting was held on the 6th of October.

As well as covering the necessary administrative issues, participants were able to connect with each other and with Leonie Sanderson and Melissa Fox of Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) – who will again be facilitating the consumer/carer engagement. There was also a preliminary presentation on the overview of the program of work to be undertaken and the consumer/carer roles within that.

It’s hoped that there will be opportunities for others to participate in various ways as things progress so, if you’re interested, you can check in regularly at the dedicated HCQ page OR head there now and sign up to receive email updates on developments. Note: You can sign up for updates purely related to the post-Barrett Inquiry action AND/OR for any other consumers/carer opportunities to engage in other kinds of service planning and support across the Health sector. If you do the latter, you hear about opportunities like the following:

1.) Consumer/Carer Registrations for 1st Asia Pacific Conference on Integrated Care

HCQ has been given a number of registrations for consumers/carers to attend the three day conference at the Brisbane Convention Centre from 8 – 10 November. (Please note that these registrations cover only the cost of attendance and nothing additional in relation to travel, accommodation etc.)

The Congress is a partnership between The International Foundation of Integrated Care (IFIC), The Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Queensland Health Clinical Excellence Division, the University of Queensland and the Centre for Remote and Rural Mental Health. You can view the draft program here or click on the link here or in the title above to find out more about applying for the HCQ registrations.

2.) 5th Annual North Brisbane Partners in Recovery Forum

Registrations are still available to attend this forum which will be held on Thursday 2 November 2017 at Victoria Park, Herston. Because it includes keynote speakers with a focus on connecting mental and physical health and wellbeing , it seems appropriate to include it in this update.

North Brisbane Partners in Recovery‘ suggests that the following people attend:

  • frontline mental health workers and other community workers with an interest in mental health
  • health and community service managers, researchers and policy makers
  • consumer and carer representatives, volunteers, peer workers and management committee members.

To book, you can head to this event booking page or to find out more, contact danielle.francisco@brisbanenorthphn.org.au or 07 3630 7344.

And, as always, severeyouthmentalhealth.org will endeavour to keep site visitors and followers updated on any developments and issues relating mental health services for young people with severe and complex issues, particularly in Queensland.

Thanks to all our regular and new supporters. The more that people with compassion and personal understanding can engage in the development of services, the better the future will be for the young people and their families who need and deserve the best possible support.

Needed: Lived Experience reps to guide youth mental health services going forward

PLEASE SHARE THIS AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN …

N.B. Closing Date for Submissions is Thursday, 7 September

ADOLESCENT EXTENDED TREATMENT FACILITY AND EXPANDED YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM

YOU can have direct input into the development of the new facility AND the other vital new services for young people with severe and complex mental health issues in Queensland. 

Health Consumers Queensland are seeking Expressions of Interest for consumer and carer representatives for the following:

Overarching Committee chaired by the Deputy-Director General, Clinical Excellence Division, Department of Health to ensure processes are monitored and advice/direction is provided to support timely and successful delivery of the AETF, StepUp/StepDown Units and new adolescent Day Programs.
Project Oversight Group to oversee delivery of the program of capital works i.e. resolving design and coordination issues and providing advice to the Committee on risks and actions for resolution. (Meetings held monthly.)
Co-design consultation: A range of workshops seeking health consumer input/expertise for detailed design, model of service and integrated educational/vocational services.

Go to this page of the HCQ website for more info and to download the Expression of Interest form to be emailed to Leonie Sanderson by midday Thursday 7 September 2017.

Please phone Leonie on 0437 637 033 if you are interested in applying but are unable to submit by this date.

*

Just the beginning …

The response to the Barrett Commission of Inquiry has reached an important stage. The MHAOD (Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs) Branch of Queensland Health is finalising the work required of it in relation to the recommendations that came from Justice Wilson’s report. The majority of the actions committed to by the current government in its Inquiry response involved analysis or exploratory activities that would lay the foundation for the development of practical changes in approach to future service provision i.e. in order to “improve service agreements …; evaluations…; transitions…; and coordination between services”, the current status of all of these things must be assessed/mapped. And, as a result of the research, appraisal and consultation, recommendations for future actions have now been put to the government for their decisions on whether/how things might progress. A summary of – and links to – the reports can be found on the August update on the Developments page of this site.

Of course it’s hoped by all those who have put so much time and effort into achieving what has been accomplished over the past year that this – or any future government – will continue what has been a productive beginning. Particularly because all contributors know that Queensland’s young people with severe and complex mental health issues and their families – and those who will exist in the future – have the most at stake.

It’s important to bear in mind that most bureaucratic processes can take extended periods of time and that what has been achieved so far has been done within a timeframe that would overpower many teams of public servants. But those involved have been able to accomplish a considerable amount. And, as a result of this process,  a dedicated Child and Youth Mental Health Team has been established within the MHAODB of Queensland Health, ensuring system leadership for child and youth mental health policy and planning. This can only lead to positive developments for children and young people and their families whose unique needs deserve specific representation at this level so it’s a very valuable step.

As well as acknowledging the focussed staff within Queensland Health, deep appreciation must be expressed to the amazingly passionate consumer and carer representatives whose contributions have significantly shaped the outcomes to date. Those in the position to provide invaluable perspectives are often also those for whom making the time and energy for meetings, forums etc. can be a considerable challenge. So anyone facing personal hurdles who overcame those to contribute in any way deserves our sincere gratitude and admiration. Thanks to the seamless and enthusiastic facilitation of Health Consumers Queensland, we know that the recommendations that are being put to government have been genuinely and appropriately influenced by those with lived experience. Both Qld Health Deputy Director General Dr John Wakefield and the Managing Director of the consulting firm undertaking the design of the new extended treatment facility have clearly stated that, without the input of those who have lived with the reality of severe and complex adolescent mental health issues, what is being presented to the government would have been quite different.

We now await the policy decisions of this or the next government (depending on when the next state election takes place) to find out if/how this strong foundation might grow into life changing approaches to mental healthcare.

Because, with generations of young Queenslanders still at risk, this is clearly only the beginning. And continued commitment to improving the services for some of the most vulnerable across our communities is not only logical and financially sound … it is the obligation of those with the ultimate authority to provide an adequate system of resources for the people of the state.

As we note this promising start , however, we can never allow ourselves to forget those who have been lost and those who have experienced such loss and irreparable damage.
They are always in our thoughts.
They drive us to do better.
And, for them, we will always do what we can to create a more understanding and healing world for those that are to come.

*

Progress Report – June 2017

A summary on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations to improve mental health services for those affected by severe and complex adolescent mental health issues in Queensland is now on the DEVELOPMENTS page at severeyouthmentalhealth.org. This includes links to more detail via the Queensland Health Communiqués released following each Steering Committee meeting as well as  other recently tabled reports.

A couple of documents that are likely to be of particular interest are those relating to RECOMMENDATION #4 – THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW ADOLESCENT EXTENDED TREATMENT FACILITY (AETF). The Thematic Analysis Report summarises the web feedback provided on the draft Model of Service for the AETF so whether or not you were in a position to complete the online survey, the feedback from that makes for interesting reading. In addition, there is an External Review of the Model of Service by Dr Paul Robertson, a Victorian based child and adolescent psychiatrist of 25 years experience, who undertook consultations with a number of groups and individuals as well as being given access to relevant documentation. His insights will undoubtedly also play in a role in the development of not only the new facility but will encourage a strong focus on the full continuum of care for young people with mental health issues in Queensland (the child and youth mental health services continuum ie. CYMHSC, as Dr Robertson refers to it) and the ongoing co-design process i.e. “A structure to support ongoing consumer and carer participation in the broader CYMHSC system is recommended“.

So a complete and integrated CYMHSC system that will allow access across the state for all young people with mental health issues to a full range of treatment and other service options will be a key issue in the future. This will not only ensure stable and informed transitions from one care/education/support service to another but will hopefully mean that some young people who might otherwise have needed extended inpatient care could achieve recovery without that. For, although the clinical experts who gave evidence at the Barrett Inquiry made clear that there will always be a group of young people whose conditions and individual circumstances are so severe and complex that community-based care will not adequately support their progress, the objective is always to facilitate recovery in the least restrictive environment possible. Queensland needs a statewide service like the AETF but it also needs a complete system within which collaboration and communication are the foundation of operations. Mental health issues impact all aspects of people’s lives and when the individual needs and situations of those suffering are acknowledged, understood and met as effectively and immediately as possible, all our communities will benefit. So Dr Robertson’s urging that collaborative planning does not begin and end with a new facility is extremely pertinent.

He also stresses the need for RESEARCH to be a key component of the new AETF i.e.

Reference is made to the AETF undertaking research. It should be obliged to collect sufficient data to allow appropriate review of its functioning. Adequate resources, funding and time should be allocated for this to occur. Research will not occur without appropriate funding and partnerships with universities or other research organisations. Both appropriate data collection and analysis and research would require an active and resourced plan.

Existing and developing technologies should ensure that research extends beyond the new facility and across all the components of the CYMHSC. Collecting data on the services that precede and follow a young AETF patient’s inpatient treatment – will provide insights into this cohort of young people that is currently lacking across the globe. AND compiling extensive evidence on all youth mental health issues must be seen as a priority in a country where available data states that one in four young Australians currently has a mental health condition [ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results 2007 (2008), p 9] and we are regularly made aware that the risk in our youth population only continues to grow. So methods of gathering and collating information on the challenges faced by our young people that not only avoid any negative impact on the vulnerable but may, in fact, have potential for therapeutic benefit require prioritised consideration.

The STATEWIDE FORUMS facilitated by the Health and Education Departments along with Health Consumers Queensland have now concluded and summary information from those should soon become available. Consumers and carer representatives attended these with the support of HCQ and, with a number of factors influencing the ability of local consumers and carers to attend, it has also been invaluable to have Leonie Sanderson, the dedicated HCQ Engagement Advisor, continually open to accepting input via a range of communication avenues (surveys, emails, teleconferences and meetings for specific subgroups) to ensure that anyone in Queensland with insights into service provision in this area have had – and will continue to have – their voices heard.

THE ROLE OF HEALTH CONSUMERS QUEENSLAND has been extremely important in the process so far – supporting and facilitating the active involvement of consumers and carers. And HCQ’s enthusiasm for the project was highlighted when they made it the theme of the Plenary Session at their annual forum (video and written info on that session is available here), with Katherine Moodie and Jeannine Kimber – two of the consumer/carer representatives on the Steering Committee – on the panel alongside John Allan, Executive Director, MHAODB, Queensland Health; Gunther De Graeve, the Managing Director of the consulting firm undertaking the design of the new AETF; and Stacie Hansel, Executive Director, Dept Education & Training. The discussion highlighted the great potential of this project to not only produce innovative and more effective outcomes but to influence the way that future service planning should proceed. Participants significantly endorsed the tangible value of consumer/carer input as Gunther De Graeve stated:

There has been an enormous change in our design development, actually, through this process. … This co-design process really allowed us to reach very deep into the operational requirements, into the therapeutic requirements, the day-to-day requirements and then safety overlays etc. of this facility and it gave us a very wide platform. Traditionally, this engagement goes to clinicians and nursing staff and therapeutic staff and very little with the consumers. … It was a genuine process of actually trying to understand what the needs were and, to date, I still say that if we didn’t do that process we would have designed a very different facility and it probably wouldn’t have been – definitely not – as therapeutic as that facility could be for the patients.

So, as progress goes, it would seem that in many ways we are at the beginning of something bigger than a response to the Inquiry recommendations. Although the planning for the new AETF is well underway and the examination of transition procedures, service agreements and other vital elements that underlay the provision of services has been undertaken, the potential of this project to have an effect on other aspects of service delivery (education, vocational training, support for carers and families, justice and legal issues, housing and accommodation etc.), of approaches and attitudes to mental health and to ALL those affected by these issues must make this project only the start. People with lived experience must have a permanent seat at the table – not just on listening tours and wider consultation but at levels of decision-making and influence. And that includes not only consumers of services and their carers and families but those professionals who have dedicated years of clinical, educational and other practice to these consumers and carers. Those who work daily to improve the lives of others by being part of the reality, by knowing the individuals and supporting them in their journey must always be encouraged to give insights on the practicalities, the impediments, the successes.

Only through true collaboration will success be achieved. And if there is any area in which we must achieve, it is in keeping our young people alive and giving them hope for a better life.

$70 million in Queensland budget for Adolescent Mental Health

NEWS

The opening story on the 12 June bulletin on Queensland’s ABC television News was that the Palaszcsuk’s 13 June 2017 state budget – released this week – includes just under $70 million dollars to not only proceed with the establishment of the new extended treatment and rehabilitation facility at Chermside but to create four other complementary services aiming to support young people with mental illness in the community. (Online summary of ABC report here.)

Future plans include two new Step up Step Down facilities in south-east Queensland and two day programs to be based at Logan and the Gold Coast.

Justine Wilkinson, who lost her daughter Caitlin following the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre, has welcomed the allocation of funding but acknowledges that there is still much to be done to provide young people and their families with the full range of support that will make a significant difference to lives that can be indescribably turbulent and challenging. Ms Wilkinson’s ongoing advocacy has meant that she – along with other consumers and carers with lived experience in this area – has played a significant role in the ongoing co-design of new services following the government’s commitment to act on all the recommendations from the BAC Commission of Inquiry.

The engagement of Health Consumers Queensland has ensured that consumer and carer representatives sit on all committees and working groups undertaking planning to fulfil the recommendations and that people throughout Queensland have had opportunities to provide meaningful input into future service provision. This commitment to co-design ensures that those with lived experience not only are heard but heeded and can actively help to shape future services – a collaboration that should lead to programs and support that genuinely meet the needs of those in the community that require them.

Health Minister Cameron Dick believes the funding package to be a landmark step for young people so the community affected by youth mental health issues can only hope that innovative approaches to planning and needed funding continue to be at the forefront of the minds of all those responsible for providing vital services at all levels and in all sectors.

(More comment on this announcement can be found at the Blog post: ‘A Budget Boost –its implications for the Future and the Past.)

A Budget Boost – its implications for the Future … and the Past

A BLOG POST

The announcement of just under $70 million dollars to not only proceed with the establishment of the new extended treatment and rehabilitation facility at Chermside but to provide two new Step Up Step Down facilities and two new Day Programs to support young people with mental illness (online summary at the ABC website here) demonstrates the current government’s ongoing commitment to those who have been sadly overlooked in the past. Bi-partisan support for these positive moves would begin to ensure some long-needed stability and security for the futures of those in this most vulnerable of groups.

An adolescent extended treatment facility (AETF) fills a dangerous gap in service provision and Step Up Step Down and Day programs are vital in the full continuum of treatment and support options that are required to meet the needs of all young people with mental health issues. Extended inpatient treatment has proven essential for those young Queenslanders with severe and complex issues who have failed to make progress accessing community-based care and outpatient/intermediate care service options. The additional new programs will – if they are accessed in a timely way – provide some young people with the help needed to circumvent a stay in a residential facility. AND for those for whom extended inpatient care is essential, they will ensure that transition from one environment to another is gradual and fully supported according to the individual needs of the young person. Those affected by youth mental health issues across Queensland will be hoping that these kinds of service options will become readily available across the state. As community-based care remains the optimal environment – when the circumstances are right – then all communities must have access to every level of treatment and support.

The plans for the new facilities and programs have come from the process that commenced following the government’s commitment to act on all the recommendations from Justice Margaret Wilson’s report following the BAC Commission of Inquiry. Queensland Health then undertook to utilise a “co-design” process i.e. where bureaucrats, clinicians, specialist architects and other professionals work alongside consumers and carers to plan services that will be most effective. (Acknowledging that expertise lies not only in professional knowledge and practice but in lived experience is currently seen as innovative but should inevitably become standard procedure. Omitting those with practical, pertinent and comprehensive knowledge of the lived experience can only add an important dimension to planning for services in any area.)

Those young people (current and former) and family members who have taken part – and continue to be dedicated to – the process of genuine collaboration have demonstrated a level of commitment that is rare. People whose lives are affected by severe and complex mental health issues find themselves most often in situations where days and nights are to be survived moment by moment; plans are seldom made and often abandoned; and significant trauma, suffering, isolation and emergency management of the effects of illness must be regularly dealt with. And during recovery, the right approach for so many will be to look forward, to put strategies in place to navigate through daily challenges and to resist rumination on issues of anxiety and trauma. So participation in design of future services may be something that could be extremely problematic for the stability of some people’s mental health. There is great understanding throughout the mental health community for all who have suffered to make the right choices that will best support healing and not put mental health at risk and equally, there is deep gratitude for those able to put time and effort into a co-design process, sometimes at personal emotional risk.

And then there are those for whom looking forward provides a view with a void that can’t be filled – the families and communities who have lost loved ones will be experiencing mixed emotions at this announcement. The families of Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker will no doubt be relieved that there continue to be moves to ensure others might not have to suffer the personal tragedies that still shape their lives. Justine Wilkinson, herself a key participant in the co-design process, has told the ABC in relation to the budget commitment (particularly in relation to the continuation of planning for the Chermside AETF):

That’s absolutely fabulous, but this change has to continue, this is just the beginning and it has to be just the beginning. … We need to keep feeding these changes and innovations down the system to pick up young people before they get to that point.

However, we must recognise this news can only be bittersweet for those whose young people did not have the benefit of a government with such a strong commitment to confront youth mental health issues and to listen to those affected to order to provide the needed services. So our thoughts must also be with those whose bereavement continues as we hear this news. We must assure them that we will never fail to remember those who will not have the opportunity to access planned new services and we will continue to support those families for whom an inquest may provide some answers but will inevitably be a traumatic process and will never ever restore what they have lost. Talieha, Will and Caitlin and those that will continue to feel their absence from their lives are always in our thoughts.

The complexity of severe adolescent mental health issues is reflected in the reactions of those with lived experience to this positive budgetary news. There is relief, hope and gratitude but there is also caution and uncertainty from those who have experienced innumerable disappointments and who know that politics can play an inappropriate role in what is necessary in service provision across our communities. And there is renewed reflection on the tragic losses that will continue to impact people’s lives, whatever the future holds.

Severity and complexity in relation to mental health issues is not confined to a small group of young people. It is pervasive. It is challenging. And so it has become a situation that a significant proportion of the population have to live with and an issue that every single one of us must acknowledge.

The support that has been provided to the former Barrett families throughout the community has demonstrated that the capacity to care is our greatest strength. It is the strongest choice that any human being can make and it is undoubtedly the most rewarding. So with, gratitude for all everyone has done to lead us to a day when $70 million is committed to the next generation of Queenslanders, it’s hoped that the future contains not just all the services required but the ongoing support of an impressively caring population.

A reminder of INADEQUATE TRANSITIONS

A BLOG POST

10 months ago, I posted on the BLOG page of severeyouthmentalhealth.org – where pieces that have personal perspective, analysis or opinions appear (other posts are News and aim to focus on facts and information about developments etc.). I had been compelled to write about the findings of the Barrett Commission of Inquiry in relation to the transitions of patients.

As independent reviewers undertake a look at the transitions from adolescent to adult mental health services, particularly in relation to those suffering severe and complex mental health issues, I would urge anyone who is unsure of what they can contribute to read that July 2016 post which reflects on how the Barrett families felt in relation to the findings of the BACCOI on transitions.

These families know what needed to be done and what was overlooked and I am confident that they are not the only Queenslanders with this kind of insight.

So now is the time to do whatever you can to share your knowledge and experiences – or encourage others to do so – so that the young people who need the best support, the most carefully planned and gradual transitions and our best efforts in all the services they require in order to finally see a light at the end of the tunnel have access to what will not just improve their lives but, in some cases, save them. NOW IS THE TIME TO SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. Through processes that ensure confidentiality but that also will mean that the input given IS ON RECORD and MUST BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION.

If you have an opinion following experience in this area or know someone who has, since the HOI reviewers’ survey is no longer accepting entries, please do the following yourself or encourage those who have important insights to:

The next few weeks provide key opportunities for those who understand what’s needed to contribute to providing those very things.

On behalf of all Queenslanders who are affected by severe and complex youth mental health issues – now and in the generations to come – I implore you all to give your expert input. From those who have seen the reality to those who can shape the future – the vital passage of ideas is the only way we can get closer to the right support for those who need it the most.

*

WANTED: Young People with Opinions and Experience!

NEWS

Following  the news posted recently about the engagement of two independent organisations to review the alignment and transition arrangements between adolescent and adult mental health services in Queensland, Health Consumers Queensland is hosting a forum run by Health Outcomes International to ensure the most important voices are heard on this issue i.e.

 the views of older adolescents and young people who have lived experience of mental health issues and have had contact with mental health services. 

Young people from 18 to 27 years are encouraged to attend, dial in to videoconference or submit their input to the issues being discussed via email. Through whatever means young people with experience in this area are able to communicate their opinions, it’s important that they are heard. It’s only through knowing what’s been happening that isn’t working that those approaches can be changed and we can put all our efforts into ensuring that the support, processes and services that will actually help are made available. SO … the independent reviewers are doing best to make sure that young people can gather together in a neutral environment – without service providers or government representatives – to air their concerns. This will take place at

Health Consumers Queensland Level 9, 217 George Street BRISBANE QLD 4000

on Thursday 1 June 2017, 1.30 pm – 3.00pm (approximately 1.5 hours)

RSVP: V􀁳anessaH􀀬@hoi.com.au

(If you need to bring a support person, please indicate that in your RSVP and be aware that this forum is to allow free-flowing discussion between young people so all attendees should help to foster that environment.)

FULL DETAILS of the youth forum are on the flyer that can be viewed/downloaded here.

The independent reviewers understand, though, that not everyone will have the capacity to attend. But that doesn’t mean those young people can’t have their say.

 For more information about linking in by videoconference, or to request an interpreter please contact Samantha Battams: 08 83633699 or samantha@hoi.com.au

Young people can also use the Word document available here to download or copy/paste into an email to give feedback on any of the issues to be discussed. They can then send these to either Samantha Battams or to Leonie Sanderson (Health Consumers Queensland) with the assurance that their comments will be included without any identifying information included. Privacy and confidentiality are recognised as vital in this process so HOI have guaranteed that …

 The session will be confidential in that no-one will be individually identified in the review.

 Please share this post with anyone you know who may have valuable experience in this area. The only chance we have to repair/replace the areas of the system that are failing  is if the true experts – those who’ve lived through direct experience of transition from adolescent to adult services – provide their insights. The benefits to other young people in the future will be immeasurable.

AND PLEASE DON’T FORGET … ANYONE with insights into the transition from adolescent to adult services for people with mental health issues in queensland can complete the independently run online surveY HERE.

The more you say, the more things can change.