Your story, your say – experiences of the mental health system

Your story, your say – experiences of the mental health system

Monday, 24 August 2020

Your story, your say

Consumer leadership and engagement will be crucial to successfully build a better and fairer mental health system in Victoria.

That’s why we are pleased to have helped 34 people to tell their story directly to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System in our Your story, your say project.

‘This project amplifies the views and experiences of people from right across Victoria, who have encountered many different facets of the mental health system,’ said Rowan McRae, Executive Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity.

‘There’s nothing more powerful than someone expressing in their own words exactly how they feel or felt, and what would have made a difference to them,’ said Rowan.

Hear from the experts

To launch the report, project co-ordinator Simon Katterl spoke to two project participants, Imogen and Barbara about their experiences with one part of the mental health system.

Watch the video and read the stories of other lived experience experts who participated in the project. 

Our final report summarises the priority issues and solutions identified by the project participants who we refer to as lived experience experts.

Priority issues – what worked and what didn’t

Many experts reported barriers to accessing the right support, at the right time for them, and many reported experiencing stigma or discrimination.

One expert said, ‘I have found it so difficult to get the supports I need. Getting a private psychologist is tricky and there is always a gap in the payments.’

Another said, ‘I think there is a lack of mental health awareness in the community and amongst GPs, especially as it relates to young people.’

When they did access help, many experts reported relationships with clinicians based on power and control, including being forced to take medication.

As one expert described, ‘the system impresses itself upon you and imprisons you. You can’t think from the medication. People stop calling your phone. Relationships are gone. Your life changes.’

A number of experts felt shut out of decision making about their own treatment, and there were differing experiences of the Mental Health Tribunal. Experts who were referred to therapeutic or problem-solving courts were positive about the support they received.

One expert said, ‘From getting off the elevator, to going into the court room there is a respectful, positive, quiet, relaxed feeling coming from all the staff. It had a profound impact after years of negative experiences of magistrates and police.’

Priority solutions – what needs to change

Experts were clear on the need to re-design the mental health system with consumers of mental health services playing a central role.

One expert spoke about the need to, ‘create alternatives to the current system. There should be places for people to go when they are having breakdowns. Mental healthcare should be taken out of hospitals so that these can be places of care and healing.’

Many experts also identified that addressing broader issues like homelessness, family violence, employment, poverty and workplace bullying and harassment are crucial to improving mental health issues.

One expert said, ‘Something that would be helpful is better housing when you come out instead of boarding houses. They’re not good. You need transitional housing when you’re coming out of hospital or jail.’

Experts also made a series of suggestions about how to provide stronger protections for mental health consumers against abuse, mistreatment and coercion, and to improve accountability.

We acknowledge the support of the Department of Health and Human Services in providing funding for the Your story, your say project.

More information

Read about Victoria Legal Aid’s recommendations to build a better system for people experiencing mental health issues in Victoria.

Read Abe’s story.

Read Jacqui’s story.

Read Michelle’s story.


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