'They have to listen to the consumers' voice'

'They have to listen to the consumers' voice'

Friday, 26 March 2021

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (RCVMHS) has delivered its final report, making 65 recommendations for change. As implementation begins, we are sharing some responses from people with a lived experience of the system.

Barbara Russell (Birthisel) is a member of Speaking from Experience, the lived experience reference group for Independent Mental Health Advocacy and Victoria Legal Aid, and was a participant in our Your story, your say project for the RCVMHS.

These are her reflections on the final report.

This has to mean something because you're dealing with people's lives and their happiness and everyone deserves to be happy. Barbara Russell, Speaking from Experience member

'I feel like the Royal Commission has made some important recommendations but a lot is going to depend on the details of how it will all work, and the timeframes. That’s the missing information at this stage.

I’m really pleased that they have recommended a new Mental Health Act, although I think it’s unrealistic to expect it’ll be ready within a year, especially if there’s going to be genuine input from consumers. So, I’m keen to see how that is going to work.

A new Act is really important to create more accountability, transparency, information sharing and communication between different services that people need and use. Those services need to actually work together, and to do that we need regulation, that’s how our society works, but consumers, the people who use those services, must have input into that regulation.

But there needs to be more accountability for everyone who works in the system, from the doctors down to the support workers. They must work on codes of conduct and it has to mean something, because you’re dealing with people’s lives and their happiness, and everyone deserves to be happy.

I’m pleased to see the Royal Commission recommend the need for more services and I’m happy to see they’re taking a lot of the response away from emergency departments, but it still seems very clinically focused. Even the recommendation for more peer workers has a clinical twist, in my view.

The Royal Commission talks a lot about wellbeing, and creating wellbeing centres, but I’m also waiting to see a lot of the detail about what that actually means. I also don’t understand why it will take 10 years to phase out the use of seclusion and restraints, I’m really not happy with that.

Personally, I am also disappointed that compulsory treatment will still exist. I think it should be opt-out. I look at all these stories of people being pushed away from services, who really needed them, where I was taking up a bed when I didn’t need it. And I still don’t know why I was put on a compulsory treatment order.

As the government begins implementing these recommendations, I hope now that consumers are listened to. Thousands of people told their stories to the Royal Commission, they wouldn’t have had to do that if the system was ok.

The government needs to use the information they’ve been given and work with people who have had a major interest in this for years. That information is there for them, but they have to listen to the consumer’s voice. So many of these recommendations are very broad, the details are going to be really important.

I also think all governments need to do much more to improve the mental health of people in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). They are some of the most vulnerable people in our community and we need to make sure they’re looked after as well.’

More information

Read the stories and experiences of people with a lived experience of the mental health system in our Your story, your say project.

Read about our submissions and recommendations to the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.

Read the royal commission's final report and recommendations on its website

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