Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership
In recent times, I’ve been involved in conversations about the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act. As described by the Royal Commission, the new Act “will establish critical foundations for a redesigned mental health and wellbeing system”.
To give Victorians a say, the Victorian Department of Health asked us at Mental Health Victoria to facilitate some community consultations about some specific aspects of the new act. The following components were put forward for consideration:
Objectives and principles of the new Act
Governance and oversight (including complaints management)
Compulsory assessment and treatment
Restrictive interventions (including chemical restraint)
Supported decision making
Despite this diversity, it quickly became clear there were resounding themes, similar reflections and many more questions. These included:
Language is key. The new Act needs concise definitions and to have clarity of intent.
Culture change is imperative. A huge shift is needed sector wide.
This opportunity to do things differently has to be authentic.
Why the continuing separation of physical and mental health?
Where is the focus on the rights to which we, in Victoria and Australia, are entitled?
However, post-consultation, I find myself ambivalent, discombobulated and outright concerned. These changes are complex and I’m shaking my head as to how little time was given for feedback to be provided. And to be frank, I wonder if any of what’s been shared will actually be listened to.
Some bigger voices than mine have said:
So, what now? What are these next steps? My personal reflection, and these views are my own, are still all about the steps. To those who are making the final decisions I say this:
Because these are vital steps and when all is said and done, this system needs to be able to help people like me step beyond the devastating impacts of mental ill health and step back into life.
I wish we could take bigger steps and faster steps, but it is better to make the time needed to take wiser steps. It won’t be in vain, because from my lived experience, every step that leads me forward and helps me feel hope, well that is a good step indeed.