Lived experience leaders expect transformative change from Royal Commission

Victorian Mental Health Consumers [Informal Association]

A group of leaders with first-hand personal experience of the mental health system are demanding radical change from the Victorian Royal Commission, due to release its report next week.

A radical overhaul is needed

There is an urgent need to embark on transformative change.

This will be made difficult by terms of reference that limited focus on abuse, and by the failure to appoint a Commissioner who has lived experience of mental health issues and of using the system.

‘The lack of acknowledgement by the Victorian government of the importance of consumer leadership was demonstrated by not appointing a consumer commissioner. It was extremely disappointing and signals the ongoing discrimination we experience,’ said Vrinda Edan, Consumer Academic. ‘Despite the glaring problem with the Commission, I remain hopeful that real change can be achieved.’

Of central focus to the group is eliminating discrimination and human rights abuses, so that our mental health system helps, rather than harms, people in need.

‘Alarmingly the public mental health system has too often traumatised, rather than providing care’, says Rebecca Egan, lived experience researcher. ‘Victorian hospitals are amongst the highest users of seclusion nationally, with several hospitals repeatedly failing to meet state-based KPIs. This is despite many consumers, like myself, already having a history of childhood trauma and abuse. Accountability, clearer reporting standards, and mandated processes for eliminating force are integral moving forward’

‘I’m a survivor of child abuse,’ said Indigo Daya, consumer/survivor leader and witness to the Royal Commission. ‘Yet the mental health system ignored my past trauma and went on to traumatise me even more, with detention, forced drugs and seclusion. I hope to see recommendations which create whole new types of services focused on trauma, led by survivors and therapists rather than doctors and nurses. Outside hospitals in the community, completely voluntary, and grounded in empathy not control.’

Allan Pinches, a consumer academic and consultant for over 30 years reminds us that ‘We suffer when we are marginalised and silenced. We thrive when we are included and supported. To do this, we need more peer workers, our own researchers and more opportunities to co-produce the services that support us.’

Looking forward

As the Royal Commission concludes, it will be over to the Victorian Government, including Mental Health Reform Victoria, to implement these findings. Transformative change will require bold and courageous implementation, scrupulous transparency and opening the doors to widespread leadership by the people who use the system.

‘There is a history of consumers being left in the lurch while government and services made decisions about us without us. This has to change,’ says Simon Katterl, mental health consultant. ‘We can’t afford this anymore if we’re serious about implementing dramatic and enduring change. Let’s remake the system as equal partners.’

Lived experience signatories:

· Indigo Daya, Consumer/Survivor Academic, Leader and Consultant: Contact 0400 404 829

· Vrinda Edan, Consumer Academic and Consumer Perspective Consultant: Contact 0433 054 346

· Simon Katterl, Human Rights and Regulation Consultant: Contact 0424 827 265

· Rebecca Egan, Lived Experience Researcher

· Hamilton Kennedy, Consumer Consultant and Academic

· Rory Randall, Consumer Academic

· Eila Lyon, Consumer Consultant

· Bianca Childs, Senior Lived Experience Advisor

· Allan Pinches, Consumer Consultant and Academic

· Deb Carlon, Consumer Advisor, Expert by Experience

· Tom Wood, Consumer/Research Advocate

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