“Mental Health unSILOed”, a collaboration between the Health Education and Training Institute (HETI), the NSW Mental Health Commission and the NSW Institute of Psychiatry (NSWIOP) was held in Sydney on 28th May. The event attracted over 80 attendees from various disciplines, locations, backgrounds and health settings.

John Feneley, NSW Mental Health Commissioner, delivered the opening speech, talking about the importance of ‘Living Well – a strategic plan for Mental Health in NSW 2014-2024’:

“[Living Well] focuses on providing more community based care for those with Mental Health issues, … as people show greater recovery when given access to community based care.”

Lyn Anderson, ARAFMI Project Officer, spoke about her own experience and shared a very powerful account of her son’s journey in dealing with mental illness while navigating the health system. She said:

“People show greater recovery when given access to community based care.”

Dr Peri O’Shea, CEO of Being, spoke about her own experience as a consumer, acknowledging that “consumers are people not conditions”, strengthening the message that mental illness can affect anyone and at any stage of life.

Workshops held throughout the day focussed on various aspects of supporting people, their carers and families, who have a lived experience of mental illness.

The workshop “Recognising infants and young children at risk”, presented by Martha Birch of NSWIOP, discussed the detrimental impact that neglect and abuse has on an infant’s brain development in the first two years of its life. Martha discussed the signs to observe that can help identify babies and children who are at risk of developing mental health illness and learning difficulties. Martha also covered making a report of neglect and abuse to Child Protections Services in NSW and provided attendees with information to take with them.

Later in the day, Allan Sparkes CV gave a moving presentation on suicide prevention, reflecting on his own recovery from a debilitating mental illness. Allan developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being exposed to highly traumatic events throughout his career as a frontline police officer. Allan’s lived experience of mental illness highlighted the importance for staff to look after their own mental health as well as that of their patients.