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VTMH News

Balancing the Risks

VTMH Admin - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

VTMH held its first forum for 2016, on 23rd  June, The Challenge of Balancing Risk in Mental Health: Legislation, Recovery and Cultural Diversity



Victoria’s rapidly changing service landscape presents many challenges for practitioners, the peer workforce and our diverse community. Practitioners are working with the new Mental Health Act, within restructuring clinical, rehabilitation and psychosocial support services that are preparing for more change, as the NDIS reforms become a reality, while trying to meet the unique needs of individuals and families. 


We asked how well the mental health service system is balancing these and other demands? 






What work is yet to be done to provide person-centred and recovery-oriented care that meets the diverse needs of mental health consumers, carers and communities? 


More than 50 people came along and joined in the lively and thoughtful discussion stimulated by four excellent presentations and a panel facilitated by Ruth DeSouza from Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health. 


Dominique Saunders highlighted important advocacy principles in the new Mental Health Act. She shared stories from her many years of working with the mental health tribunal and discussed common dilemmas that arise for practitioners, advocates and individuals and families impacted by severe mental illness. 




Cath Roper reframed the main concern of the day, from ‘balancing’ to ‘negotiating’ risk, a move that may help position consumers as decision makers. She argues that mental health services need to become 'learning', not 'punitive' organisations. We need to find ways to nurture communities that are supportive of diversity. She discussed how mental health legislation can lead to situations where recovery principles cannot be enacted, and that acknowledgment of this truth is a necessary first step toward empowering users of mental health services and the people who work in them. 


Sam Wild showed us that cultural respect and diversity are foundational to the clinical competency of practitioners and the recovery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She shared her approach to understanding cultural considerations in complex presentations, challenged us to work within local cultural contexts of mental health and wellbeing and shared a video created by and for young people who have Got a lot going on.



Ruth Vine reflected on her extensive experience of working in inpatient units and holding senior clinical leadership and governance roles. She discussed the realities of providing care and treatment services, the tensions between service demand and current capacity and the ethical implications for all.



A big thank you to the presenters for thoughtfully responding to the questions posed by the forum and the participants on the day. 

Our thanks go to everyone who came along. Here's some of your feedback:

"Great food for thought. Good to hear the different experiences of the forum speakers."

"All speakers were excellent, with good interactions between each other in Q&A sessions. It also gave us the opportunity to reflect on the multiple and diverse tensions of this work and services need to recognise the value of this."



"The merging of the lived experience voice and the clinical need for providing a treatment for the vulnerable and unwell."

"I found Cath Roper's alternative perspective very provocative and thoughtful and Sam Wild’s perspective on Aboriginal health a great new take on a well known theme."   



We're already planning our next major event in October - we'll be exploring youth and diversity.