Position Vacant on project with Queensland Alliance for Mental Health

PROJECT:
Consumer and Carer Perceptions of Mental Health Service System Changes resulting from COVID-19

(a project in partnership with Health Consumers Queensland, Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Service and the Brisbane South PHN)

ROLE:
Lived Experience Advisor
(part time up to 15 hours per week until  30 June 2021, based at QAMH Stones Corner)
https://www.seek.com.au/job/50578393
The QAMH is the state’s peak advocacy body for mental health.
And they’re undertaking a project to understand:
  • the specific changes that have occurred across services and map those services
  • the experiences of consumers and carers with those changes and
  • the perceptions of care from the service providers viewpoint
This isn’t a role that’s specifically for young people or carers of young people but it might be worth considering or sharing with others that you know.
If you want more information, click on the link to the SEEK advertisement above or  contact Sarah Childs, the Director of Engagement & Partnerships at QAMH oschilds@qamh.org.au or at  07 3394 8480.

Have YOUR SAY on Mental Health

The government provides health services based on the National Mental Health Plan. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (the Fifth Plan) and its Implementation Plan were endorsed in August 2017.

NOW, they are looking to work towards a NEW set of mental health safety priorities. And they want people in Australia to tell them …
  • what you think are the most important safety priorities in mental health,
  • how they can best improve safety in these areas, and
  • how they can monitor progress over time.

There are several ways you can let the government know what you think:

  1. You can take part in a survey (open until 10 June)
  2. You can join an online discussion (between 15 & 26 June)
  3. You can make a written submission (open until 26 June)

To do any of those, click on the links above.

People across Australia dealing with mental health issues KNOW what’s important.

We know that quite often just surviving the day has to be your focus. But if, in the next few weeks, you can make some time to give your input, the government will know where THEIR focus has to be where mental healthcare is concerned. If you can’t, perhaps you can share the links above with others who might be able to.

We need to let the government know what matters.

Australia needs the best possible mental healthcare. Telling those providing services what and how is the way to achieve that.

Thank you.


 

Hope for real change in a post-COVID future

Yesterday, former PM Julia Gillard in her role as Chair of Beyond Blue wrote an article that is truly important.
It not only highlights the fact that a national mental health response and recovery plan related to COVID-19 will be vital but indicates that irrespective of the pandemic and its implications, Australia “went into this crisis with a mental health system in need of profound change”.

We cannot ignore the fact that many people with mental health issues prior to the events of the last few months will be severely impacted by many aspects of the pandemic and the changes it has imposed on us. But it’s also important to acknowledge that anxiety and depression will be impacting those unfamiliar with mental challenges prior to this significant global event.

Julia Gillard, as well as reporting on what has already been noted about people’s use of and need for the right support to this point, underlines the ongoing positive implications of the fact that this crisis has demonstrated the capacity of the mental health community to “swiftly design and implement reforms which impact behaviour, improve outcomes, and which the community will embrace.” Our capacity to find ways to connect, adapt and collaborate have been adept and creative. So …

“We need to keep this spirit alive as we work to build a mental health system in which people seeking support have options that match their needs. We must use this opportunity to close some of the structural gaps in the system and address affordability.”

In a challenging period for the world, it’s important to find positives. And we can have hope that a country with the capacity to acknowledge an urgent need for change and take swift and decisive action is one that can apply a similar approach to critical issues beyond the pandemic. That a government that is able to take a bipartisan approach to ensure the health of its citizens should utilise the same method when lives are at stake in epidemic proportions in the way we see mental health issues having such a devastating effect outside the impacts of a pandemic.

We shall be expecting a lot from our health and other support services when the acute period of this COVID-19 crisis is behind us. But now we know that they are able to rise to such challenges, those expectations should be able to be met. And we have a right to insist that they are.

Saving lives is what had driven the unprecedented response of governments across the world to the spread of the coronavirus. And saving lives is what is always at the heart of what we demand of our mental health support services in any situation. We must always seek to find and expect the best ways to save lives … from ending AND from the dire consequences of deep suffering due to trauma, hopelessness and the many other torments of mental illness.

Julia Gillard states in her article that:

“the current shock can be what pushes us forward and delivers some of the changes people, families and communities have long needed.”

So we move towards a future armed with the knowledge that our governments can and will act in urgent circumstances. And we should accept nothing less long after this pandemic is over.

Significant change is something long overdue for mental health systems across Australia. And with the best evidence possible that systems can be altered dramatically when required, this crisis may provide us with the impetus to create a future that is not “back to normal” but ahead to the development of a system that finally genuinely responds to the needs of those it seeks to help.


You can read Julia Gillard’s article in full HERE (OR IN PDF FORMAT HERE).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mental Health Resources

The following are focused on Queensland/Australia but there are some international resources. Included are some links with useful general advice as well as services for those with pre-existing mental health issues and their carers. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. If you know of other resources that would be useful, please leave a comment and this list will be added to whenever possible.

Take care, everyone. Look after yourself as well as the significant things you are doing for other people. (And you are ALL doing that – any changes you’ve made will be saving others from having to deal with challenging health issues – so acknowledge your contribution and make sure you take the best care you can of your mental health.)

Head to Health – helping you find the right digital mental health resources for your needs
MindSpot Online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression
ReachOut – Coping during coronavirus (COVID-19)
KidsHelpline (for ages 5yrs-25yrs)– tips and advice as well as ACCESS TO 24/7 support via phone (FREE) 1800 55 1800, email counselling, or  web chat
Beyond Blue COVID-19 mental health support service
Black Dog Institute – COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing resources
Headspace –  How to cope with stress related to coronavirus (COVID-19)
#InThisTogether – the National Mental Health Commission page with tips and links to help with mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus crisis
Queensland Mental Health Commission – COVID-19 and Mental Health
Australian Psychological Society – tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety
Arafmi – 24hr carer helpline at 1300 554 660 and online carer support groups
Blue Knot (National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma) – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Factsheets
Australian BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) Foundation Ltd – video ‘Strategies for getting through COVID-19 lockdown for people with BPD
Red Cross – tips for looking after your mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic
World Health Organisation – Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak

Times Like These

For those suffering from mental health issues, what’s happening in the world right now will be particularly challenging. The unpredictability. The change. Those are the kryptonite of the anxious.

The ‘unprecedented’ nature of the current situation might feel overwhelming. But as I think about the courageous young people I have met and heard about over the last 7 years, I can’t avoid the fact that they have resources of tenacity and strength that I previously didn’t know existed.

This is indisputably true.

It’s not empty flattery or encouragement. It is a fact.

I once wrote a children’s story about what ‘brave’ is. The message is simply that brave is feeling fear and still trying. And young people with severe mental health issues do that every day. Just when they think they’ve felt the worst that they could feel, their brain throws a curveball and it seems like maybe the thought or feeling right now is even worse than that. That’s the nature of mental illness.

And yet, these amazing young people keeping going.
They put one foot in front of the other.
They breathe in. They breathe out.
And time passes.
And something that might not have seemed possible happens … 
One day they realise that they don’t feel quite as bad as they did.

That they’ve done some things and maybe interacted with some people.
And they might just have reached the other side of that torrent of fear. 

Not in an instant. 
Not like a switch turning off.
But gradually, bit by bit. Getting through it.

That is what will happen with the coronavirus and the measures needed to minimise its impact.

This will end, every pandemic and epidemic will end.

The world will get to the other side.

It might feel to so many that there have never been ‘times like these’ before. So reassurance can feel empty. But there have never been times like any particular time period. There has never been another minute like the minute that just passed. Never been a Christmas like last Christmas.  Every time is history is unique. So this one, in that respect is no different.

So we can’t overlook that:

  • there has never been a time when science and medicine have been so advanced.
  • there has never been a time when knowledge can be so quickly shared.
  • there has never been a time when we could stay at home AND see our friends via a screen AND discover how to make a snack from the things that had disappeared into the pantry’s black hole. AND play video games with someone on the other side of the world AND think of our favourite movie and then watch it on a phone AND join a universal quest to be the most impressive at throwing paper into a bin.
But interestingly, there is an exception to this rule of unique times.
An important exception that can’t be denied.

If you are one of those young people who has had challenges and got to the other side, you can’t ignore the fact that you have done this before.
That you have felt the weight and pushed through it.
That you have experienced that eternal internal scream that eventually hushed.
That you have got through before. So you will get through again.

Because you have the strength and the skills to do it. Even when you think you don’t.

You’ve proved it already. You’ve done it already. (And there others around you who might not have.)
You have the EXPERIENCE and the RESOURCES.
And never forget that you have the SUPPORT.
You have people who are sending you their strength and their love and their energy.
People you know. And even people like me who you don’t know.
But mostly you’ve got the COURAGE. Based on the clear definition, you are BRAVE.
So you’ve got this one.
Just breathe in. And breathe out. 
And FaceTime a friend.
Watch a Koala on Livestream while you listen to some soothing music.
Tell your grandma a joke on Facebook.
Download an app that’ll make cuisine from the ingredients you’ve got (or just go ahead a make that m&m sandwich)
Think of someone you can help just by staying where you are.

You know you can do it.

So tell someone else that they can too.

And we’ll all get to the other side together.

New AETC named Jacaranda Place

Today, as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the completed statewide Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre (AETC) at Chermside with Health Minister Stephen Miles and the member for Stafford, Dr Anthony Lynham, she announced that the facility was to be called Jacaranda Place. (Ten News First’s coverage – accessible by clicking here – has a full report and footage of the exterior and the interior as the Premier tours the finished centre.)

PremierTweetJacarandaPlace

The final design of the centre has been the result of extensive input from a large number of consumers and carers with lived experience of severe and complex mental health issues in young people following the closure of the Barrett Centre in 2013/14 and the recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry into that closure.

Jacaranda Place is a 12 bed inpatient facility that will also house a Day Program allowing young people to transition appropriately to and from treatment services. This means there were always be more than 12 young people utilising the centre. It’s hoped that the education program onsite will operate as the Barrett Adolescent Centre School did in providing for not only those young people in active treatment at the centre but for those who have moved from Jacaranda Place to treatment in the community but for whom continuity of education will ensure stability and ongoing progress. (Note that the Barrett School continues to be a vital service since its relocation to Tennyson where it now serves as a Support School for young people with severe mental health issues who don’t require long-stay inpatient care.)

BrisbaneTimesjacarandaplace2The new centre will be the base for approximately 45 medical, nursing and allied health professionals and 10 specialist educators and the Health Department is aware that those with lived experience are keen for the staff at the centre to be a valuable resource for those throughout the state dealing with the significant challenges that severe mental illness can impose on young people and their families throughout Queensland. With the lack of research worldwide into the severe and complex cohort of young people, Jacaranda Place could help not only those with direct contact with the centre but many more if the Health Department’s dedicated approach to those affected by severe youth mental health continues past the centre’s opening. Thanks to the proactive approach to co-design and collaboration taken by Queensland Health – spearheaded by Director General John Wakefield, there remains great potential for enduring benefits to take place in and beyond this new contemporary facility.

As the Premier made today’s announcement, she emphasised the importance of the new centre in the context of the tragic closure of its predecessor under Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and Premier Campbell Newman.

What happened after the Barrett Centre closed was an absolute tragedy which should never have happened,” the Premier said.

“I remember meeting with the families involved and being deeply moved by their stories, that’s why I made a commitment that we would build a new centre. I thank them for their time, their selflessness and their bravery in discussing what must have been times of terrible trial and suffering for them and their loved ones. Their input has been valuable, and will no doubt prove life-saving for future patients. I’m so proud to stand here today at the new Jacaranda Place which will ensure young people in need of mental health services get the very best possible care.”

Where the new name is concerned, Frank Tracey, Chief Executive of Children’s Health Queensland, the Hospital and Health Service with responsibility for Jacaranda Place said today:

“The name reflects the strength and resilience of the Jacaranda Tree, which represents wisdom, rebirth and good luck. It is a hardy tree that grows in difficult conditions and once a year, its true beauty is shown in full colour. The name also reflects the centre’s location and the views overlooking Jacaranda trees along Farnell Street. … [It is] a distinct and purposeful name for the centre – one that is both welcoming and representative of the stories of hope, dignity and recovery we want the centre to be known for.”

The press release announcing the naming of Jacaranda Place can be read in full here

and

7 News Gold Coast has posted Facebook video of an emotional press conference given by the Premier about Jacaranda Place opening here.

Also …

Updates of the progress of the building and construction of Jacaranda Place (including photos and video) can be found at Queensland Health’s Youth Mental Health site here.

Jacaranda Place will officially open in April so patient admission will not begin until that time.


severeyouthmentalhealth.org will keep you posted regarding the centre’s operation.

National Survey on Severe & Complex Mental Health Issues

‘Our Turn to Speak’ is a national survey that seeks to understand the life experiences of people living with severe and complex mental health issues in Australia.

It will investigate the lived experiences – both positive and negative – of people affected by these issues and the survey findings  will be used to inform SANE Australia’s future advocacy efforts, as they work towards improved social outcomes and support for all Australian affected by these issues. 

The survey organisers (SANE Australia’s Anne Deveson Research Centre is partnering with the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne) are seeking:

7,000 people aged 18 and over who have experienced complex mental health issues in the last 12 months.

The process is simple and short – following a short eligibility screening process, participants will proceed with completing the survey which will take about 30 minutes and can be completed online right now, or over the phone. (Participants can take the survey over the phone from Monday 11 November 2019, between 9.00 am – 8.00 pm (AEDT), Monday – Friday.)

For more information and to take the survey, visit the website:

ourturntospeak.com.au

This is a chance for what you experience to be considered when advocacy organisations are pushing for better support for people with severe and complex mental health issues. If they don’t know what you need, they don’t know what to fight for. So, if you’re eligible and able to do so without any negative repercussions, please contribute to the survey to make sure what you need becomes available.

More change in the way society responds to people with severe mental health issues is vital. Not just the right healthcare but the right understanding in so many areas. This survey gives you (y)our turn to speak and the right people are listening. So let them know what’s needed.

Assumptions, Bias, Labels … why the search for justice is elusive

A BLOG POST

I have written previously on this site to try and give context to findings that were less than satisfactory to people who have just wanted understanding and fairness. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to write again.

The Coroner’s Court of Queensland is undoubtedly populated by experienced and deeply knowledgeable individuals – that is not disputed. Neither can it be denied that Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker were each precious, courageous, developing individuals.

And it is INDIVIDUALITY that is at the very heart of the matter that must be illuminated by what has transpired over the 6½ years since the inevitable closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre was first revealed to be underway.

Each human being is unique. Even identical twins are not actually identical. Each of us has a physical make-up that is not organically replicated exactly in any other person. We are a one-of-a-kind collection of thought patterns and hopes and likes and backstories and quirks and motivations and needs and lifespans. But the world often seeks to put us into categories. To label or pigeonhole. To impose. And sometimes, to assume to know based on superficial information.

The need to classify is often understandable. It’s too hard to start with a totally blank page when dealing with thousands or even millions of people. So we are grouped and assigned and we have to compromise on the parts of ourselves that fall outside the parameters we are supposed to fit within.
And sometimes those compromises aren’t a big deal.
But sometimes they are.

As individuals, none of us has the capacity to be truly objective. Despite it being vital at times in professions and key life moments, our humanity can never totally be shut down. So we bring our histories and agendas and ambitions and perspectives of the world to all that we do.
And sometimes that isn’t a big deal.
But sometimes it is.

 

 

So when an individual provides their input on an issue or event,
what is FACT and what is INTERPRETATION?
And when several different individuals have their say on a particular situation,
who is providing what could be seen as the closest to OBJECTIVE information?

In the case of the Barrett Inquiry and the Coronial Inquest, for example,
whose evidence has been determined to be the EXPERT information on which findings will be based and whose evidence is viewed as FLAWED so has been broadly disregarded?

That has been for the Commissioner and the Coroner to decide. Based on years of legal knowledge, experience and precedents; standard practice; even societal conventions. There are high expectations of everyone involved. Protocols and time limitations to adhere to. It is no easy task and one where compromises must regularly come into play.

Not unlike those compromises we all have to make when we don’t fall into the stereotypes that can be assigned to us.
Like the mothers who have tolerated snap judgements about their relationships with children whose lives are in turmoil. (Because those mothers burst into tears when they finally admit out loud that they’re terrified their child could be dead every time they’re out of sight for more than a minute). But they continue because no other treatment has been effective.
Like the carers who have long given up on hoping vicariously for a life of professional achievement, fulfilling relationships and creative satisfaction for the suffering young person that they love. (They just want them to have a life. And then one that isn’t a never-ending nightmare.) But they continue because they are realistic and determined that the young person’s life will be better in some small way.
Like the parents who have sacrificed a stimulating and useful professional career and their own stable, healthy existence because the young person with such complex needs means more to them than anything else. (24 hr diligence and stress will always take a toll. And a life wholly focussed on another – a loved one who moves from torment to hopeless – drains like nothing else can.) But they continue because know their priorities and their responsibilities. Their child comes before anything for themselves. Anything.

So this blog post is just to note that:
Individuals make compromises based on their priorities.
Individuals categorise based on their particular agenda.
So all we can hope for is that, in every situation possible, everyone will do their best to take in everything each person says and does. As much as possible. Factoring in the context of the information being provided – the role of the individual, their incentive, their bias.
Each individual’s input should be seen as valuable. There should never be judgements based on stereotypes or assumptions.
This approach is something we all hope for many times through our lives. Over trivial incidents. And life changing events. Because it’s the only way to get closer to understanding. And fairness.
And those two things are vitally important. Especially in circumstances where individuals have suffered.
And are suffering.
And could suffer so much that the worst can happen.
If it hasn’t already.

 


The media have reported that the inquest found that “there are no strong links between the suicide of three Queensland teenagers and the controversial closure of a youth mental health facility,  … other factors played a more significant role in the suicides”. To try to consider the situation within the context provided by the people that experienced the closure process and aftermath … click on the button below.

YOUR involvement in POSITIVE CHANGE

Mental Health issues – especially those that are severe and complex which have a serious impact on those around a young person directly facing the challenges – put those with lived experience in an almost impossible position …

YOU are the ones who know best about the most important aspects of service provision (whether the right services are available to achieve the progress that’s desperately needed)

BUT

YOU are dealing with mental health issues – and that takes time, can limit your ability to do things (to the point of everything feeling totally overwhelming) and can mean that you have had enough difficult experiences with service providers that the idea of doing anything beyond just surviving just can’t be on your radar

WE KNOW THAT YOUR SITUATION CAN MEAN YOU CAN’T ALWAYS BE INVOLVED IN THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE 

Even those with the biggest hearts and the greatest determination will find themselves needing to focus solely on getting through the next minute and then the next and then the next … So doing anything that isn’t part of that ‘just holding on‘ isn’t possible.

BUT

  1. If you can pass on opportunities to others (e.g. using social media can mean just a few clicks) you’ve done something that will help; and
  2.  If you feel you could spend a few minutes online, there are often ways to do that that don’t mean an ongoing commitment (see below).

Of course when you’re able to get a little more involved and still take care of your health, there are groups in your community and projects underway where you can participate more regularly and in different ways. So you can see what you might be able to do when you

There are many ways that you and those you know can be heard so that you, those close to you and people you don’t even know will get better help.
Better healthcare.
Better education.
Better support to help you towards a life where you can do more. And feel better.

 

RIGHT NOW YOU CAN HAVE YOUR SAY VIA THE …

National Mental Health Commission CONNECTIONS SURVEY

The National Mental Health Commission aims to “consult and engage with all Australians on the 2030 Vision for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention“.  So their Connections project is to be a nation-wide conversation about the future of mental health and suicide prevention in Australia. The Commission will be visiting 23 communities across Australia to hold Town Hall meetings to which anyone with lived experience of mental health is invited to attend. If you can’t be at the Town Hall meetings you can share your stories and experiences in relation to mental health, suicide prevention and wellbeing ONLINE by clicking on the following link.

CONNECTIONS PROJECT ONLINE SURVEY

The survey closes on the 8th of September 2019

And you find out more about the Connections Project overall by clicking on the image below..
If you can share this with your network of friends, family and colleagues so that the right information gets to the people who can make the changes, that would be great. But if now is a time you need to focus on you, know there will be ways for you to have you say when you’re able.

Thanks for caring.
About others and for yourself.

Those are two best things that you can do.

*

NEW EXTENDED TREATMENT CENTRE NEEDS: Therapists, Nurses, Social Workers, Psychologists, …

The team that will provide the holistic treatment and support at the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre to open at Chermside in early 2020 will be truly multidisciplinary.

So Expressions of Interest are now being called for:

  • Art Therapists
  • Carer Consultants
  • Dieticians
  • Exercise Physiologists
  • Health Workers
  • Medical
  • Music Therapists
  • Nurses
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Peer Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Speech Therapists

This is a unique opportunity to work in a truly collaborative team based in a new purpose built centre focussed on changing the lives of young people and their families. To be able to provide hope, facilitate recovery and witness the development of young Queenslanders with the potential to live productively in the community and finally acknowledge their own value will be a professional experience that is genuinely enriching.

For more information, click here to go the relevant page of the Children’s Health Queensland HHS website  or, to be kept informed of recruitment activity as it unfolds, email a copy of your CV to AETService-Recruit@health.qld.gov.au.

It’s worth noting that CHQ HHS page linked above also has a digital ‘flyover’ video of what the exterior of the new Centre will look like (and from which the images used here were selected). So anyone with any interest at all in the Centre should find viewing this particularly interesting.

*****