A traveling commission will meet in the nation’s capital this week to hear from people with lived experience of Australia’s mental health support systems.
This will be the fifth leg of a three-month tour across the country to understand how Australians interact with mental health and suicide prevention services and how they can be improved.
The National Mental Health Commission expects its Connection2022 tour to provide critical insights as it develops a framework with recommendations to the federal government.
The commission has previously visited Lismore, Dubbo and Bourke in regional NSW, where communities have been rocked by drought, flooding, a mouse plague and the pandemic.
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The commission travels to the town of Batemans Bay on the south coast of New South Wales on Monday, before traveling to Canberra on Tuesday.
Although the tour is in its early stages, common themes are already emerging from each community, commission head Christine Morgan told AAP.
“One of the positive things we’ve seen is that people are generally more comfortable recognizing that mental health is as essential to overall well-being as physical health is,” she said.
“I think it’s a result of the pandemic where more people started talking about how they were coping with their mental health.”
Communities are still reeling from closures and isolation requirements, Ms Morgan said.
“The mental health consequences of COVID-19 don’t end with a vaccine,” she said.
“People are talking about the fear they felt and the impact of being disconnected when schools and businesses, whole cities shut down and are stuck at home.”
In each location, the commission hosts roundtables with community leaders, mental health providers and people with lived experience, as well as in-person community meetings.
Ms Morgan said the tour has so far seen good turnout from locals willing to share their views, which is important to inform future policies.
“Significant changes and investments have been made at the national, state and territorial levels,” she said.
“For current and future commitments to have the greatest effect, we need to assess the impact of these commitments on the ground.
“True change can only be measured by the reality of a person’s experience and the improvements it brings to their mental health and well-being.”
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