Special Guest Blogger:
Mental Health Coalition of South Australia
Applying human rights to mental health
In August last year, Victorian human rights adviser Indigo Daya visited South Australia to talk to an audience over more than 100 people.
Little did we know how much of a chord she would strike with South Australians.
After all, most of us think that human rights are something that needs attention in Third World banana republics. Right?
Well, Indigo talked about her own experience of mental illness and the re-traumatisation that she sometimes experienced in mental health services.
She compared these experiences with the aspirations of some of the international agreements to which Australia is a signatory, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
People significantly impacted by mental illness die much younger than the rest of the population, have high levels of homelessness and experience higher levels of unemployment than their counterparts in the OECD first world.
Indigo’s proposition was clear: we fall far short of our international obligations for Australians with mental illness.
South Australians attending the event felt the same way.
So the Mental Health Coalition of SA (MHCSA), the Lived Experience Leadership Advocacy Network (LELAN), Carers SA and the Health Consumers Alliance SA took the topic out to more South Australians so we could hear their views.
South Australians with lived experience of mental illness told us they are not enjoying the full human rights in so many areas of their lives despite living in such a prosperous country.
We hosted a consultation to inform a submission that MHCSA and LELAN put to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health. A key part of this was to put the human rights case for ensuring delivery of broader outcomes such as housing, employment and social connectedness as well as continuing to reduce restrictive practices.
We established a Human Rights and Mental Health Working Group which now meets monthly and as more and more people on this group share their experiences, it becomes even clearer how much change is needed so Australia can truly meet its international rights obligations.
Our most recent consultation, for example, was to shape a submission to Free and Equal which is ‘an Australian conversation about human rights’ hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
At times, people on this Working Group are a little daunted by the complexities that we discuss and there is so much to do to redress the injustices and indignities experienced by people with mental distress.
But as I listen to depth of knowledge expressed around the table, it is pretty clear that continuing to really listen to – and understand – the perspectives coming from lived experience is the single most important ingredient in the recipe that will fix one of Australia’s poorly recognised human rights problems.
By Geoff Harris
Executive Director, Mental Health Coalition of SA
Geoff Harris, Executive Director, Mental Health Coalition of SA
Geoff Harris is the Executive Director of the Mental Health Coalition of SA (MHCSA) and has worked in mental health policy for over 20 years. The MHCSA’s mission is that everyone in SA gets the mental health support they need when they need it. The ongoing work in mental health and human rights discussed in this blog is supported by a partnership between the Lived Experience Leadership and Advocacy Network and MHCSA.
2019 Mental Health Week: October 7–11
Special Guest Bloggers