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ACT Mental Health Sector Update: 1 September 2023

It has been an energising fortnight at MHCC ACT.

Today, I am in the Canberra Times speaking about climate change, mental health and the cost of living – drawing especially on the ACTCOSS report released this month. You can read my op ed here.

This week, we offered Connecting with People training for ACT NGO mental health sector executives in partnership with the ACT Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Connecting with People is a training approach to suicide prevention that challenges the traditional notions of risk quantification, prediction, and management of suicidality. Emphasis on the use of compassionate and informed engagement with those in suicidal distress is championed.

At its core the philosophy of Connecting with People is that suicide is not a foregone conclusion for those living with suicidality and that talking about suicide is not a contributory risk factor.

Recently, we have also made a submission to the NDIS review. I would like to recognise the work of Lauren O’Brien, a well-known disability policy expert and advocate, for her wonderful input into this submission. I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful Pam Boyer, a long-time MHCC Board member and ongoing friend to MHCC, for providing advice.

Many of you will be all-too-familiar with the decrease in community-based mental health service funding since the start of the NDIS. More than 150,000 people in Australia (including at least 2,500 Canberrans) with severe and complex mental health conditions are currently receiving no psychosocial support services from either the NDIS or from any other Commonwealth or state/territory-funded services.

We argue for more equitable access to the NDIS for those with psychosocial disability, but we also call for an expansion of services and resources beyond the NDIS such that the NDIS does not remain an “oasis in the desert”. The NDIS is an important and transformative opportunity for many people – including those who experience substantial and profound impacts of severe mental ill-health. But not everyone who experiences mental ill health or disability will want or need the level or types of individual support offerings in the NDIS.

One of our recommendations is that mental health prevention and early support via community-managed mental health services is increased, commensurate with level of needs.

I am delighted that I will be able to represent our position on the NDIS and community mental health funding reforms needed in meetings we – and fellow state and territory community mental health peaks – have secured with key MPs, including Federal Health Minister Mark Butler, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride, and NDIS Minister Bill Shorten, in mid-September. I would welcome input from any member CEOs ahead of these meetings – please get in touch.

Coming up, Our Events Manager, Rahni, is also in the thick of organising ACT’s Mental Health Month (October). A highpoint of the celebrations will be a mental health awards evening on November 1, for which we will be joined by Federal Charities Minister Dr Andrew Leigh, who will speak about the loneliness epidemic and the role of our sector in building community. If you know a hero working towards the mental health of our local community, be sure to nominate them!

Finally, please save the date for our Annual General Meeting, which will be held on 14 November 2023 at 2pm. Further details to follow.

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