University hosts mental health reform forum

5 July 2013

(L-R) John Feneley, NSW Mental Health Commissioner; Professor Larry Davidson; Sebastian Rosenberg; Professor Ian Hickie.
(L-R) John Feneley, NSW Mental Health Commissioner; Professor Larry Davidson; Sebastian Rosenberg; Professor Ian Hickie.

The University of Sydney this week co-hosted two wide-ranging mental health forums with the NSW Mental Health Commission and Mind Australia.

Consumers and carers together with clinical and policy leaders in mental health, within and outside the University participated.

The forums focused on how mental health services can be transformed through greater reliance on the experience of people who live with severe mental illness in all aspects of the system and adopting a person-centred approach to treatment focussing on the individual's recovery journey. The discussions particularly highlighted the importance and increasing recognition of the role of consumers as peer mental health workers.

The event formed part of an ongoing collaboration between the NSW Mental Health Commission and the University and will include further forums and policy announcements in the future.

The forum featured a keynote address by Professor Larry Davidson, director of the program for recovery and community health at Yale University, entitled Recovery-oriented practice and the peer workforce.

Professor Davidson also serves as senior policy adviser for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Project Director for the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Recovery to Practice initiative.

Professor Davidson's training, research, and policy interests focus on the topic of recovery. Much of his work has been about attempting to create pathways into community life for people with psychiatric disabilities. Throughout his work, Professor Davidson and his colleagues have attempted to identify and redress social, political, and economic inequality as they relate to healthcare and opportunities for recovery.

Professor Davidson told the group that achieving proper representation for people living with mental illness was a civil rights issue, and that people were still too often stigmatised and marginalised because of their health problems.

NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley said the meeting was an important opportunity for senior academics and leaders within the NSW public health system to consider the benefits of reforms that emphasised the autonomy of people who experience mental illness, and their right to choose how to live and what care they receive.

Mr Feneley said the Commission would work closely with the University of Sydney as research yielded new insights into the links between brain development and psychological health. "It is particularly important as we work towards mental health reform in NSW that we take into account emerging knowledge about how mental illness develops, and how its course might be altered," Mr Feneley said. "The University of Sydney is conducting outstanding work in this area. I thank the University for its generous support of the leaders' forum and I look forward to our future collaboration."

The forum comes after the NSW Mental Health Commission recently launched a public consultation on mental health reform, to which all members of the community are encouraged to contribute. For more information, visit the NSW Mental Health Commission website or call 1300 884 563.

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