Your story, your say

Your story, your say

Your story, your say

Stories are central to our understanding of who we are, how we fit in the world and our wellbeing. For these reasons, we believe it is crucial for the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to hear the stories of people with a lived experience, as it considers how to reform and reimagine mental health care in Victoria.

In the Your story, your say project we helped 34 people to tell their stories directly to the Royal Commission – we refer to them as lived experience experts.

Download the Your story, your say final report (pdf, 297.7 KB) or the accessible Word version (640.45 KB), which summarises the priority issues and solutions identified by our lived experience experts.

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

‘Barbara and Imogen’s stories ask us to acknowledge that crisis services such as emergency departments and inpatient units are often hurting rather than helping Victorians when they present for support,’ said Simon.

‘This is just one part of the broader mental health system that our lived experience experts reflect on in their stories to the Royal Commission.’

‘I think there needs to be more support outside of the mental health system,’ said Imogen.

‘There's lots of things that impact our mental health, housing, study, work, social and family connection just as a few examples and I think that the mental health system needs to put more emphasis on supporting consumers to set them up in the best way possible.’

‘I believe [there should be] people with lived experience working with others with mental illness because I believe a problem shared is a problem halved and if people are listened to, that's a great start,’ said Barbara.

All 34 participants offered valuable insights into Victoria’s mental health system.

‘Mental health services have never been helpful to me. They never ask me what I want or need. I am bent out of shape to fit what they need. Sometimes they’re so focused on what they want and need, it’s like the train is so busy trying to be on schedule that it’s leaving all of the passengers behind.’

‘Getting the right psychiatrist shouldn’t be a lottery. You should get the right access to care no matter who you see. But in my experience, one psychiatrist respected me and gave me care, while the other did the opposite and took away my rights.’

‘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. Your person is dead. But you are meant to go on pretending that everything is normal. And you never have any choice about the matter. It’s an invisible and symbolic prison.’

‘The “protections” in place for my rights were too late and ineffective. I didn’t get access to the Independent Mental Health Advocacy until three weeks into my admission, so many decisions had already taken place. It was made clear there was no room for negotiation.’  

‘There should be more psychological, counselling, peer and other supports available to people within and outside hospitals. Consumers should be able to choose these supports themselves.’

‘There should be more education for young people about mental health and abuse. I felt like I was the only person who this was happening to, but it turns out I wasn’t. I should have been told where to go to get help. We learn about our bodies, but we never learn about our mind, emotions and mental health.’

Hear from more experts

Listen and read Abe’s story about the support he received from the Assessment and Referral Court.

Watch and read Jacqui’s story about the importance of tailoring services to the specific needs of young people.

Watch and read Michelle’s story about the distressing impact of compulsory treatment and the importance of early access to advocacy and support.

More information

This project was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and we acknowledge their support.

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

Read more about the Your story, your say project.

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