Healthcare professionals from around the globe met virtually for the 22nd International Mental Health Conference, held over three days (31 January - 2 February 2022), to share their ideas, experiences and working practices to advance ways we support and respond to mental health.
Everymind was a sponsor for the event, and the Life in Mind team attended various sessions capturing many of the exciting and innovative activities in the mental health and suicide prevention sector. Read some of the key highlights below:
Session: Changing the Narrative in Suicide Intervention, Joe Calleja (Principal, Recovery Matters)
Joe Calleja presented on the Alternatives to Suicide peer support approach, which he says fills a gap in Australia’s suicide intervention space. Joe believes that Australia needs to embrace the emergence of suicide intervention without any clinical presence. This approach has been successfully utilised in the USA since 2008, and ConnectGroups are now leading programs in Western Australia.
Joe discussed how the current suicide narrative is based on a treatment response where the individual with suicidal ideation has a problem that needs to be fixed, however he believes listening more closely to what the person with lived experience is saying is a better approach for many people.
Session: Developing guidance to support gender-affirming mental health care, Leanne Rodgers (Change Leader, Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing)
Trans and gender diverse individuals are a priority population within the LGBTQIA+ community. They experience high levels of anxiety and depression, and often have trouble accessing mental health care. To combat this, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government created a Guidance to provide information to medical and mental health care professionals on delivering gender-affirming mental health care. Leanne noted that creating the document is not the endpoint, and the next steps will focus on embedding the Guidance into practice.
Session: Embracing Peer Run Services: The Experiences of the Mid North Coast Local Health District, Sage Green (Project Coordinator, Zero Suicides in Care, MNCLHD)
Sage Green presented on the experience of opening a peer-run safe space in Port Macquarie. Co-designed with Roses in the Ocean, it was created as an alternative to emergency departments for those experiencing suicidal crisis. It is staffed by trained peer workers, with the background support of one clinician. One of many lessons learnt has been the value of having a clinician in the team, as they have invaluable knowledge of the mental health system and referral pathways.
Session: Co-designing Non-clinical Suicide Prevention Services: Lessons Learned from a Lived Experience Perspective, Bronwen Edwards (CEO, Roses in the Ocean)
Bronwen presented Roses in the Ocean’s experience in co-designing safe spaces at different tiers of the National Safe Spaces Network model. She discussed some considerations and approaches needed to successfully co-design with and for people with a lived experience of suicide. Bronwen highlighted the need for evaluation of community safe spaces to ensure they are meeting local needs and maintaining the fidelity of co-designed models.
Session: Embedding Lived Experience Engagement and Workforce Development in the Commissioning of Primary Mental Health Services (panel discussion)
The panel included six short, sharp case studies on embedding lived experiences into primary mental health services. It provided in-depth insight into work happening across the country. Experiences spanned from Darren Jiggins (Tasmania Primary Health Network [PHN]) discussing the benefits of virtual and hybrid meetings on peer engagement, to Rick Corney (Ballarat Community Health) exploring their co-designed Connecting2Community program. Each case study strongly emphasised the importance of lived experience and co-design in mental health and suicide prevention services.
Session: In your own words: Mapping Australia’s Top Priority Issues Around Mental Health, Amarina Donohoe-Bales (Research Assistant, Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use)
Amarina Donohoe-Bales presented qualitative findings from the Alone Together study which examined the impact of COVID-19 on Australians’ mental health. The study found COVID-19 exacerbated existing economic and social issues (i.e. increased financial hardship and lack of social and community connection). Amarina emphasised the need for governments to draw on these lived experience accounts to address system and societal issues.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by this information or needs help, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, phone emergency services on 000.