Lived experience demands to be heard in health reform

6 October 2015

Last night, as I watched my colleague and friend, Fay Jackson, Deputy Commissioner of the Mental Health Commission of NSW on ABC’s Q & A, I was both inspired and frustrated.

I am continuously inspired by Fay and the hundreds of other lived experience voices I have come across as a member of the SPA Lived Experience Network Leadership group and various other mental health consumer advocacy groups. Publicly sharing these stories in a safe and supportive way is paramount to changing attitudes and behaviours in our society. It is only through the acknowledgement of how mental health and suicide touches our lives that we can heal together, effectively manage our health, and work on building a more resilient Australia.

However, this bravery, openness and social movement to promote conversations is countered by a growing sense of frustration. We desperately need to make deep rooted systemic change to how our health and wellbeing is supported.

This weekend, the SPA Lived Experience Network Leadership Group met face to face in Sydney. The group talked at length about how the LEN can inform change at every level of Government and community.

However, like many of the voices you will have heard lately, we have had enough of talking. We want action. We want to contribute to tangible steps needed to get to where we need to be in order to reduce suicides in this country.

We see a future where we establish, implement, monitor and evaluate models, frameworks, programs and research that involve – rather than isolate – those with lived experience. We will draw from the wealth of knowledge and experience available to us from within suicidology and combine this with the wisdom offered by those who have lived through suicide.

As Fay said last night, no one person’s experience of mental illness is exactly the same. We cannot have a one size fits all approach to health services. We must treat the whole person not just the diagnosed or perceived illness.

We want a community that knows how to give help, get help and take care of themselves.

We want all those using our social and health services treated with respect and dignity.

We want clear care referral pathways so that barriers to seeking help are removed not reinforced.

We want crisis response supported as core infrastructure and sustained investment in accredited suicide prevention programs and research.

We want action and accountability – by the Government, by communities, and by individuals.

We all have our part to play in building resilience and preventing suicide.

But, we can’t do it alone.

Stand with SPA, its members and the SPA Lived Experience Network to demand the systems, services and support we deserve in this country.

De Backman-Hoyle

SPA Lived Experience Network Leadership Group