Reimagining the future of mental health

People are experiencing mental health distress and crisis. These times can be the darkest and most terrifying moments of one’s life.

Rather than thinking this means there is something wrong with a person, many believe that this is a part of a human experience.

Whether you believe this or not, one thing remains the same. Peoples’ pain is too often being exacerbated by current responses from the mental health system.

All of us, everyday people, people on the frontline, people writing policy don’t think we have the power to make this better. But we do.

In 2019, a group of passionate people with lived experience of mental health started the Community Responders project looking at new ways to support mental health in South Australia. Spending several months gathering insights from their communities – they then created a series of valuable toolkits which we will be sharing over the coming months to help others do similar work in the future.

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The Community Responder project, funded by the Fay Fuller Foundation, set out to find out what people in the South Australian community want and need when it comes to mental health distress or crisis.

This project was led by passionate young people with lived experience of mental health crises. A dedicated co-design group of people from all walks of life including young people with lived experience worked with the insights gathered over several months.

They collectively designed the resources we now want to share and road test with the broader community. Resources about how to work with the community to design responses to mental health.

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People power is an under-utilised and often hidden super power. There is so much to learn about our potential to help ourselves and others.

A critical part of this project (and many other TACSI projects) is the ability to have conversations about difficult topics like mental health, the end of life, homelessness, suicide, domestic violence, systemic racism, injustice, loss, grief and power.

We are increasingly aware of the need to address power imbalances inherent in our work. We are conscious of creating spaces for reflection, innovation and learning that are both safe and brave.

We often discuss how to create these spaces. Spaces that allow for vulnerability, that do not skirt around big topics and are full of compassion. We are aware of the responsibility we hold for doing this, which includes prioritising our ongoing education around privilege, race and inequity and reflecting what we bring to these conversations.

How to use the toolkits below

These toolkits have been put together to support people to consider and act upon how you may be able to get involved in supporting people and the community when it comes to mental health crisis.

At the core they are simply ideas and suggestions to inspire how we can all be a part of the solution. You may just read them, or you may wish to share them or print them out and work through them together with others – the choice is yours.

In sharing these tool kits, we are asking:

  • How might we experiment with different ways to show up as human?
  • How might we deepen our connection with each other, our services and the system we are all a part of?
  • What works and what doesn’t?

We would also love to hear from you

We’d love to hear what resources you’ve developed or are drawing on to have difficult conversations in your life. Get in touch via our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or send an email to info@tacsi.org.au

Community Responders Toolkits

Overview

Our young people spoke with over 80 people with lived experience of mental ill health, as well as community groups, mental health professionals and decision makers. These are the insights they gathered.

Download the overview report

Toolkit 1

The first toolkit is all about roles. It contains:

  • Descriptions of the 10 roles needed to support the mental health of the community.
  • Worksheets for individuals and groups to reflect on their roles, and roles that might be needed around them.
  • A worksheet to help individuals or organisations map the relationships, resources and roles around them to strategically plan a community response to mental health.

Download Toolkit 1

Toolkit 2

This toolkit features one of the tools we’ve recently trialled in the Community Responders project so that we can have safe and productive conversations around mental health. We hope it’s of use to you and your work as you have and hold tough conversations.

Download Toolkit 2

This project did not draw from Aboriginal content as we identified a number of significant limitations and constraints due to our broad focus, team make-up and dominant approaches: namely we were too white, too western and could not commit to the time needed and necessary to be in community.

What is important to us, is that this project was informed by Aboriginal knowledge responsibly and with permission when it comes to our learning process. We are lucky that we get to connect with Aunty Vickey as a sounding board and to offer guidance at key stages of all our work.

It is also clear that there is so much we can learn from Aboriginal perspectives and pedagogies if we want to be successful in, with and for community building, and we will continue to seek out relationships, learning opportunities and ways of applying new ways of seeing, being and doing by, through and for improving mental health outcomes for South Australians.