Roads to Recovery – Building a Better System for People Experiencing Mental Health Issues in Victoria

Roads to Recovery – Building a Better System for People Experiencing Mental Health Issues in Victoria

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at the system response to people with mental health issues that is not currently working to support people’s personal recovery and is at times harmful.

Through our work, Victoria Legal Aid sees the intersection between people’s mental health and their legal, social and economic issues. We see the way a lack of access to housing, disability services, employment, income support and mental health services in the community, and experiences of isolation, family violence and/or discrimination, can damage people’s mental health and undermine their recovery.

Support and service gaps and failures also contribute to escalating issues, which can include family breakdown, homelessness, criminal offending, removal of children, loss of income and employment or hospitalisation. Once people have entered crisis-based systems, their exit, reintegration and recovery are again dependent on access to adequate housing and supports in the community.

People's lived experience at the centre

Our submission to the royal commission highlights the stories of 24 people, including Edwin.

Our clients' stories paint a picture of diverse lives, strengths and challenges. The experience that unifies them is that, at points in their lives, the mental health system – and the systems that intersect with it – has failed to understand and meet their needs. The hardship that our clients and consumers have experienced as a result of these system failures reminds us all that widescale, systemic change is essential and urgent.

Now is the time for a total rethink and genuine culture shift. We need more services, better services and importantly, we also need alternative services. Let those of us most impacted by the system lead the way in designing a new system that works for us. We want services that are amazing – that you would consider good enough for yourself or your families and friends - Wanda Bennetts, Senior Consumer Consultant, Victoria Legal Aid.

In 2017-18, 23,842 of our clients identified as having a mental health issue or disability. Of those: 5% were experiencing homelessness 15% were younger than 18 4% were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

The royal commission is a chance to build a mental health system with people at its centre, that promotes people’s rights and recovery, and reduces the negative impacts we see in our work every day.

Consumer leadership should be at the heart of the royal commission and the system it helps redesign.

Six priority areas for reform

In our submission, we identify six priority areas for reform which we believe will contribute to a mental health system that will support people’s recovery and agency.

  1. building a recovery-focused mental health system
  2. embedding consumer leadership and advocacy as part of a rights-focused system
  3. reducing the harm of criminal justice involvement for people experiencing mental health issues
  4. improving responses of other systems and services to mental health, including NDIS, housing, child protection, family violence and discrimination 
  5. reducing inequalities and developing tailored, culturally safe practices
  6. strengthening governance, accountability, data and transparency.

We look forward to working with the royal commission and with our consumers, clients and partners across the legal, health and community sectors, to help build a system that supports people's choices and their recovery in ways that enable them to live the best lives they can, as determined by them.

Our submission, Roads to Recovery, and other work

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