Opportunities to be involved in developments in mental health research and treatment

LIVED EXPERIENCE has genuinely moved from being a careful phrase to describe those impacted by mental health issues to being acknowledged as a significant asset in the development of all areas of analysis, understanding and treatment of such issues. Those who KNOW having gone from being INVISIBLE to being INCLUDED (thanks to the dynamic work of some very proactive people) and finally being VALUED.

And those who’ve been personally affected by mental health issues so often feel that they want to do what they’re able to help others to whom they can relate … it seems that experiencing health issues that can so comprehensively affect your thoughts, emotions and the way you live your life breeds deep compassion. The Lived Experience community is made up of some very strong and empathetic individuals.

If you are – or you know someone who might be – interesting in making a contribution to some innovations in mental health approaches, here are some opportunities to consider:

OPENING OF PEER CENTRE AT THOMPSON INSTITUTE

WHEN:   10am, Thursday 27th September
WHERE: Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute
USC (University of the Sunshine Coast)
12 Innovation Parkway, Birtinya.

This is an informal morning tea event to celebrate the opening of the PEER Centre at the Thompson Institute where the focus is on integrating mental health research, clinical services and teaching. It’s a great chance to go and see what the PEER Centre has to offer and celebrate the opportunities the Thompson Institute is creating for people who use mental health services to be proactively engaged in education and research.

All are welcomed. For more information or if you have the chance to RSVP, you can contact Chérie McGregor, Consumer Services Coordinator at the Thompson Institute on (07) 5456 3893 or at cmcgreg1@usc.edu.au


JOIN ADVISORY GROUP OVERSEEING THE EVALUATION FRAMEWORK FOR THE NEW ADOLESCENT EXTENDED TREATMENT FACILITY

Expressions of Interest are being sought for the positions of one consumer and one carer member of the Advisory Group to be chaired by the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) tasked with developing an Evaluation Framework for the new adolescent extended treatment facility due to commence operation in 2020. As key stakeholders, consumer/carer input is vital to ensure relevance and appropriateness of the evaluation framework from both technical and service user perspectives.

It’s anticipated that the commitment will require 3 to 4 meetings of about 4 hours each with all other details available here via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form to be submitted through Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) via email to Leonie Sanderson: leonie.sanderson@hcq.org.au by COB Friday 12 October 2018.  Please phone Leonie on 0437 637 033 for any queries including if you are interested in applying but are unable to submit by this date.


QLD HEALTH VICTIM SUPPORT SERVICE LOOKING FOR CONSUMER/CARER MEMBER FOR GROUP DEVELOPING RESTORATIVE JUSTICE APPROACH IN MENTAL HEALTH AND FORENSIC MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Restorative justice is an approach that involves the use of an independent trained facilitator working with people who are victims of violence, and a person involved in committing harm, with the aim of repairing harm. Restorative approaches have been used with success over twenty years in across different systems, including youth justice, education, adult criminal justice, community conflict as well as in other health settings and although they have not been used in mental health and forensic mental health services in Australia, their use has been growing since 2012 in England in mental health and forensic mental health services, and forensic mental health services in Calgary and the Netherlands.   

Expressions of Interest (EOIs) are being sought from carers and/or consumers with an interest in participating in the development of an innovative approach to how mental health and forensic mental health services respond to violence to participate in this stakeholder group.  You can download the EOI form here to be submitted by Tuesday 2nd October 2018 and if you have any enquiries, you can contact:
Michael Power
Director, Queensland Health Victim Support Service on
0428 594 119 or michael.power2@health.qld.gov.au


 

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Consumers and Carers NEEDED on Steering Committee for New Adolescent Treatment Facility

KEY ROLES on this VITAL STEERING COMMITTEE are available for YOUNG PEOPLE, FORMER YOUNG PEOPLE AND CARERS WITH EXPERIENCE IN SEVERE  & COMPLEX ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES …

This is a unique opportunity to help shape how the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility at Chermside will operate along with all the key issues that will ensure it genuinely meets the needs of the young people of Queensland who were failed by the closure of the Barrett Centre.

This community has gone from being ignored to being included at ‘the top table’. This Steering Committee makes the decisions on the design and layout of the centre, its model of care, staffing, education component … all the aspects that, if done correctly, will take young people from lives of isolation and continual distress to a place of hope, ongoing support along with independent abilities and skills and having the best chance at a productive adult life with personal satisfaction and achievement.

BUT WITHOUT THOSE WHO KNOW WHAT IS REALLY NEEDED, THIS WON’T HAPPEN!

As previous consumer and carer reps can attest, you will be thoroughly and understandingly supported throughout your involvement by Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) and specialists in mental health. This is not a token gesture, you will be respected and have opportunities to say what’s needed within an environment that acknowledges your personal expertise. You can influence how the centre works and so ensure that young people in need become young people with promising futures. AND, you will receive remuneration for your time and reimbursement of expenses – info here.

For more information, you can go to this HCQ web page (i.e. at http://www.hcq.org.au/aetf-steering-committee-consumers-and-carers/ ) and, although Expressions of Interest (EOI) close on Friday 10th of August, if you think you might to apply but you’re unable to do so by this date, you can contact Leonie Sanderson, HCQ’s specialist Engagement Advisor on this issue, (on 0437 637 033 or via email at Leonie.Sanderson@hcq.org.au) to indicate your interest and for assistance in lodging your EOI. So if it’s after the 10th of August when you’re reading this, it may still not be too late.

This is a great opportunity to shape the future of adolescent mental health services for those impacted severely. Without those who’ve seen what’s lacking and what happens when that’s the case, the potential to create the most effective new treatment centre may never be reached.

YOU KNOW WHAT’S BEEN MISSING, YOU KNOW WHAT’S BEEN WRONG, YOU KNOW HOW THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED YOU … NOW YOU CAN MAKE IT RIGHT!

Please consider putting in an Expression of Interest today!

COMMUNITY INPUT REQUIRED re: Educational Needs of Young People with chronic/complex health conditions

Young people with chronic health or complex mental health conditions require more than simply healthcare. As they grow and develop – and hopefully receive the most effective treatment for their illness/es – their growth and development in all areas must be considered and supported, as is the case with all young people.

So, as the Health Department and Health Consumers Queensland facilitate the engagement of the wider community in the design and development of the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility for young people recovering from complex mental health conditions, Queensland’s Education Department is enthusiastic about embracing the input of those with lived experience in order to meet the educational needs of young people at the AETF AND through all stages of chronic illness and/or severe and complex mental health issues.

So, as part of the Department of Education’s commitment to developing and implementing a statewide continuum of educational delivery to support all students dealing with these kinds of health impacts, there will be a community forum where anyone can attend to put forward opinions, ideas and feedback around how to best support the educational needs of young people recovering from chronic health or complex mental health conditions.

Discussion will include issues relating to the new facility (to be located at The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane that is due to open in 2020) which will include residential facilities, day program treatment and therapy, and a school program. But young people move to and from different levels of healthcare service and, across Queensland, health issues and their impacts vary with each young person. So each student has specific needs in regard to accessing and gaining benefit from educational opportunities. So the Department of Education would like to ensure that all those needs are met. And only with the input of those who have needed and will need access to education across different circumstances can the full spectrum of types of education, training and rehabilitation services be planned for and provided.

So anyone who has an interest is invited to the:

Consultation Workshop

on

Monday 30 April, 9.15am–12.00pm

at

Conference Room, Autism Hub & Reading Centre (AHRC)
141 Merton Road (Cnr Park Road), Woolloongabba

(The AHRC is next to Park Road train station and Boggo Road bus station and there if free parking available onsite.)

If you click here or on any links in this post, you’ll be taken to the Eventbrite page where you can register to attend.

The program will be as follows:

9.15am–9.30am: Registration

9.30am–10.00am: Introduction presentation

10.00am–11.30am: Consumer workshop; Carer workshop

11.30am–12.00pm: Light lunch and refreshments

Reimbursement for attendance is provided.
Please advise of any dietary requirements.

Please share this on social media or with anyone you feel might be able to contribute in some way. The more that the people with firsthand knowledge can impart to those developing services, the more likely that Queensland’s young people will receive the invaluable education services that can make a significant difference to their lives.

Thank you.

Lived Experience Needed for Co-design of Youth Mental Health Programs

As planning continues for the Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility (AETF), other programs to support young people with mental health issues must also be developed.

TWO NEW ‘STEP UP STEP DOWN’ UNITS in North and South Brisbane
and
Refurbishment for the TWO NEW ADOLESCENT DAY PROGRAM SPACES at Logan and the Gold Coast

are priorities for the Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch (MHAODB) of the Queensland Health Department.

With the positive engagement of consumers and carers with lived experience in the AETF design thus far, establishing co-design consultation for these two services means that there are a range of opportunities for involvement of people with lived experience with youth mental health issues.

If you are interested in participating in the infrastructure co-design that will assist and inform design development of these facilities – or you know someone who might be – click here to download the Expression of Interest (EOI) form to be completed and submitted to Leonie Sanderson at Health Consumers Queensland by noon on the 2nd of April 2018.
(If you are unable to submit by this date but are still interested in applying, please phone Leonie on 0437 637 033.)

Different aspects of involvement require different time commitments so it’s possible to find a way of contributing that will suit your regular obligations. Participants are assisted with transport and/or access to meetings and financial reimbursement for their time. It’s hoped that individuals from rural and regional areas and a range of cultural background will be able to contribute in order to meet the needs of every young person who will need effective services in the future.

This is a great opportunity to ensure that the young people of Queensland get the full support that they need to deal with mental health issues. While a new extended treatment facility is vital, no youth mental health service will be effective unless the full system of treatment, education and rehabilitation options surrounds it. Young people must be able to transition from and to different levels and types of support in order to continue to heal and consolidate the progress they have already made. So if you have some experience with youth mental health issues, you have valuable insights into what kinds of services are essential and how they should be delivered to ensure they are most accessible and effective.

Please share this post wherever you can to facilitate the involvement of Queensland’s most valuable contributors – the people who use and need the healthcare that the government provides.

Thank you.

CALLING ALL YOUNG PEOPLE WITH OPINIONS AND IDEAS!!

A lot of different people have been involved in the co-design process still underway for the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility to be built at Chermside in Brisbane. And recently the most important people so far have begun to have input – Education Queensland and Health Consumers Queensland were able to facilitate a workshop that included a number of YOUNG PEOPLE THEMSELVES, all of whom made incredibly valuable contributions that will shape many aspects of the new centre.

So now, the Department of Education would like to hear from more young people on issues like:

  • what classrooms and outdoor learning areas should look like
  • what activities the young people attending the centre should be able to participate in
  • how the centre can have as comfortable and homey environment as it possible
  • what skills and knowledge teachers at the centre should have

IN FACT, ANY IDEAS AT ALL!

So …

IF YOU’RE A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT / SOMEONE WHO WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IN THE LAST 6 YEARS OR SO – OR YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO FITS THAT DESCRIPTION, please spread the word and encourage young people to

TAKE THE SURVEY

It’s quick, easy and online.

And if young people have had experience (personally or through someone else) with mental health issues, those insights would be especially interesting to learn.
But any young person who has ideas on what might be important in a health and education centre that’s going to have residents and day students attending where the focus is on healing and hope for the future can make a really useful contribution.

The survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9WXM99Y
so please use the sharing buttons below to share this post and encourage young people to have their say.

The real experts on what works for young people are young people.
So as many insights as possible from those who know will ensure that the new centre has the best chance of being the place that everyone is hoping it will be.

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.

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.