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ACT Mental Health Sector Update: 13 October 2023

Today’s sector update looks a little different! Over the next month, you’ll be seeing a brand refresh from us. It’s been 20 years since our original branding was developed, so it was time for an update. We’ve consulted with our new mental health communications network (staff in communications, events and related roles in our member and fellow peak organisations*), as well as our own staff and Board to create a brand that is both approachable and in line with our community-orientation, as well as professional and clean for use in our advocacy work. Thanks to all those who have contributed to our branding development, we’re looking forward to rolling it out! 

Currently, we are in the swing of Mental Health Month. We celebrated 10 October, World Mental Health Day, by lighting up Telstra Tower. As we explain in our media release, we used this as an opportunity to draw attention to the  loneliness epidemic – and to create a subtle, but beautiful, moment of connection. We are seeing loneliness in epidemic proportions across the country. And, according to a large study by the the non-profit organisation, Ending Loneliness Together, , the ACT is the loneliest state or territory in Australia – 40% of us feel lonely.  I found this statistic shocking, especially given that, on many other indicators, such as physical health, income levels, and education levels, the ACT does comparatively well. There is both a tenderness and a sadness in reflecting on the fact that four of every ten people we interact with in our wonderful community are feeling so alone.  

Through our Mental Health Month Wellbeing Trail over the last few weeks, our call to action has been to ask yourself who you can reach out to – is there a friend, a neighbour, a colleague who you can connect with today? We need to recognise the systemic factors that drive loneliness – issues such as overwork, financial stress, climate anxiety, urban design and more. But we can also take simple, individual actions right now that make a difference. Whether you are struggling with loneliness yourself, or whether you know someone who may be, a caring interaction can make a huge difference, even a brief one.  

There are rich conversations to be had, and I was delighted to speak with Adam Shirley on ABC Canberra Breakfast about it. 

On 3 October, we launched Mental Health Month at a beautiful morning gathering in Haig Park. We hard from several powerful lived experience speakers, and also from Mental Health Minister, Emma Davidson. We also welcomed Bradley Foxlewin, the ACT’s new Lived Experience Director (see our Lived Experience update below for further information about this exciting new appointment). The importance of our relationships, both to our communities and our environment, were key themes in the stories our lived experience speakers shared.  

Since then, the MHCC team has been enjoying getting out and about to many of our members’ fantastic events. A highlight for me was the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre’s wonderful Festival. There was such a strong sense of community among the many new and expecting mums who came along. It was a wonderful example of our sector’s recognition that wellbeing cannot be not achieved through individual clinical interventions alone – it is developed and sustained through community-building. 

Perinatal Wellbeing Centre CEO and MHCC Board chair Yvonne Luxford, MHCC CEO Melanie Poole, and ACT Mental Health Minister, Emma Davidson at the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre’s Mental Health Festival.

Last week, MHCC also held a two-day Outcomes Measurement workshop. We are so thankful for all of the impressive sector leaders who came along – it was an impressive turnout, with over two-thirds of our fifty members attending, as well as a number of our fellow peak body friends. I found the conversation incredibly stimulating. While we did not shy away from acknowledging frustrations and hurdles, particularly around resourcing, I was heartened that we arrived at concrete steps that we will collaborate on as sector going forward – both within the commissioning process, and in our sector-wide advocacy more broadly. CEOs and senior staff – please keep an eye out for another save the date from me coming soon, as we will be holding a follow-up workshop to plan both our ACT Budget submission, and our election campaign next year.

From Wednesday until this afternoon, we are also hosting our Mental Health Info Hub at Belconnen Westfield. Please come and say hi, grab a packet of Skittles, and find some valuable mental health resources from our members across Canberra! 

Coming up, we’ll be attending more community events across Mental Health Month, while also observing National Carers Week from 15-21 October. 

Last but not least, we have our major event coming soon, the Mental Health Month Awards. We are so excited to be celebrating all of you and this inspirational, dedicated sector. We will be recognising our Community Wellbeing Heroes, and hearing again from Minister Davidson, the Hon. Dr Andrew Leigh, Federal Charities Minister, and Sophie Lewis, ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. We’ll have live music from Ben Drysdale, and opportunities to connect with one another. More information can be found in the “What’s On” section below. 

There are limited tickets available, so please RSVP as soon as possible to secure a place! 

I look forward to seeing many of you throughout the many events this month, and also at the Awards night.  

*Nb If you a staff member working in one of our member organisations, or a fellow peak body, whose work broadly involves communications/events/marketing, and you want to join the network – please reach out to our Media and Comms Manager, Erin Stewart, erin.stewart@mhccact.org.au.)

– Melanie Poole, CEO MHCC ACT

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