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QMHC eNews - Issue 20


MH & AOD Leaders group photo

MH & AOD Leaders group photo

2 Jul 2015

Commissioner's update18/02/15 Qld Mental Health Commission Executive staff and offices

The Minister for Health, Cameron Dick MP asked us to organise a sit down with leaders of non-government mental health, drug and alcohol organisations this week. It was an opportunity to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on what matters to the mental health sector.

A warm thank-you to the Minister for the generous time he spent with us in the busy lead up to the State Budget, to be delivered on 14 July.

Speaking of the Budget, don’t miss the QCOSS State Budget Breakfast on 17 July.

National reforms

Minister Sussan Ley has established a Mental Health Expert Reference Group(ERG) to provide advice to inform the response to the Review of Mental Health Programmes. It’s great to see some Queenslanders on that group but it is unfortunate that mental health nurses are not represented.

At the same time as this group was established a cut in Federal funding to perinatal infant mental health was announced without any consultation with States.

I have since written to Queensland’s Health Minister, drawing his attention to the issues we raised in 2014 about access to perinatal mental health services in Queensland.

Following the $ trail

Many people expect the Commission to keep an eye on mental health funding and expenditure.

Following our discussions, the Auditor-General has now included an audit of the management of mental health in 2016-17 and of forensic services in 2017-18 as part of the updated performance audit program (Read the Summary page of the Strategic Audit Plan 2015-18)

This is in addition to the Queensland Audit Office 2014-15 audit program, which is looking at management controls to ensure all mental health expenditure is accurately captured and accounted for.

Keep an eye out for: Financial audits of Hospital and Health Services, which are scheduled for tabling in Parliament in November 2015.

Major milestones

In June we:

  • Made our Submission on the Mental Health Bill 2015
  • Published our first Ordinary Report into Social Housing policy
  • Released our Suicide Prevention Discussion Paper at the Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Conference in Cairns

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who participated in our 2015 Performance Survey – we nudged past last year’s total of 580 to reach 591 completed surveys. Once we receive the survey results, we’ll post them on our website for everyone to view.

Minister & MH AOD Leaders meeting

Listening to consumers, families, carers

Letters, emails, phone calls


The Commission regularly gets comment from consumers and family members about medications for treating mental illness.

They express concern about the over-use of medication, including multiple prescriptions, that have adverse impact on the physical health of the patient and sometimes do not appear to relieve the symptoms of the underlying mental illness.  Interestingly, the same issue is raised by a number of clinicians.

This is what Dr Neeraj Gill, our consultant psychiatrist, has to say:

For most of the common mental health problems (for example anxiety and depression) psychosocial interventions like counselling or psychotherapy are often helpful and must be tried before using medications. Psychiatric medications should be prescribed only when these interventions do not prove to be effective, or in severe cases.

In severe mental disorders (for example schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression) psychiatric medications are generally required, however, it is important to use these medications in the lowest possible dose needed by the consumer, while making sure that the therapeutic benefits outweigh the adverse effects. Best outcomes are achieved when psychiatric medications are used in combination with psychosocial interventions such as cognitive-behaviour therapy, psycho-education, lifestyle-management, social activities and vocational programs.

Nothing beats a collaborative relationship between the doctor/clinician and the consumer, with input from carers/family.

Bronwen2.111446Empowering consumers, families and carers

Meet Bronwen Edwards

Bronwen is Founder and Board Member of Roses in the Ocean, an organisation that aims to change the way suicide is spoken about, understood and prevented through the wisdom of people with lived experience. She was also part of the development of the Lived Experience Network Strategy and in 2015 was appointed to the National Lived Experience Network Leadership Group established by Suicide Prevention Australia to drive the outcomes of this strategy.

Bronwen was the primary carer for her brother, Mark, who suicided in 2008. She is passionate about making suicide prevention a topic that is openly and safely discussed. She advocates a united approach to the suicide related issues facing our communities and is determined to play a role in suicide prevention gaining the attention and resourcing it deserves.

Bronwen will be working with the Commission to increase support across Queensland for World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September and to help boost engagement of people with lived experience of suicide.

Contact Bronwen at

Have your say: Suicide prevention

QMHC's Suicide Prevention Discussion Paper was released last week, part of the journey towards a Queensland Suicide Prevention Action Plan involving across-government and community effort.

The discussion paper sets out a vision for a renewed approach to suicide prevention in Queensland. It focuses on changing the conversation to one of hope, recognising that some suicides can be prevented.

But when suicide does happen we need to support those who are impacted including families, friends and first responders. The discussion paper sets out a new goal: to reduce suicide and its impact in Queensland.

It proposes that actions are taken in four areas:

  1. Stronger community resilience and capacity  which includes enables community members to identify when someone is at risk and to support those bereaved by suicide
  2. Improved service system responses and capacity including to identify and respond in an appropriate and timely way to people at risk of suicide
  3. Focused support for vulnerable groups particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those living in rural and remote communities
  4. A stronger more accessible evidence including providing information and research to communities

Be Heard

Have we got the approach right? Give us your feedback on the Discussion Paper.

Please provide your comments to  by 31 July 2015.

PIC_SNAPSHOT_Everyone needs a homeEveryone needs a home

The Commission’s first Ordinary Report to the Queensland Government has been tabled in Parliament.

The report Social Housing: Systemic issues for tenants with complex needslooks at the impact of Queensland’s Anti-social behaviour management (or three strikes) policy on tenants experiencing mental illness, mental health difficulties and substance use problems.

The report makes 12 recommendations to address systemic issues and help maintain social housing tenancies for people with complex needs.

There’s a handy snapshot of the report too called Everyone needs a home. Read more here

Bill promises reform

Thanks to the many who provided comments and feedback to QMHC for its submission on Queensland’s Mental Health Bill 2015.

The Bill offers promising reforms, with significant consumer-focused changes including greater patient rights, advocacy around care and treatment and greater support before the Mental Health Tribunal.

The Bill implementation will require ongoing consultation with consumers, families and carers, professional bodies and service providers; and resources to implement them effectively. Read our submission here

Drug and alcohol

AOD Roundtable

On 12 May 2015 the Commission held a Roundtable to identify issues and priorities for the Alcohol and Other Drug Action Plan.

We heard from 29 stakeholders from government, non-government agencies, academia and the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council, who contributed their advice and expertise.

Professor Mel Miller (Siggins Miller consultants) facilitated with assistance from Professor Michael Farrell from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Keep an eye out for

  • We want your views. We’re releasing a Discussion Paper for consultation soon.
  • We’re also scheduling consultations around the State with service providers, clients, their families and support persons.

The Alcohol and Other Drug Action Plan is due for release by the Commission late 2015.

World Drug Report 2015

The World Drug Report was released in June, providing a comprehensive annual overview of production, trafficking and consumption of the main types of illicit drugs, along with the related health consequences of those drugs. Read more here

Advisory Council

Indigenous focus

The Advisory Council focused on issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ social and emotional wellbeing at its June meeting, and outlined potential strategies to address these issues.  Issues under consideration include:

  1. Solutions designed, led and implemented by the community
  2. Recognition and ongoing development of a skilled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce
  3. Build the cultural understanding of non-Indigenous staff and clinicians, with support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers and Indigenous organisations.

Read the Council’s Communiqué here

Prof Brenda HappellProf-Brenda-Happell-200x300.112755

Professor Brenda Happell is an inaugural member of the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council, and is a mental health nurse with substantial expertise in consumer participation in mental health services and the education of health professionals.

Brenda says: “The Council provided an important venue to influence mental health at a very high and strategic level. I saw an excellent opportunity to provide leadership for, and actively promote, mental health nursing.  Perhaps even more importantly I saw a unique opportunity to advocate for the enhancement of consumer roles within services and within the education of health professionals.”

Brenda feels her greatest achievement as a Council member to date is advancing the work in consumer participation in the education of nurses.  Over the next year Brenda hopes the council will continue to contribute to consumer-focused mental health services in Queensland.

She says: “I would like to see a specific focus on consumer and carer participation in mental health services and the education of health professionals.  While this has been embedded in other discussions, the Council could play an important role in lobbying for, and contributing to, research and evaluation to articulate the value consumer participation brings to services, develop principles to underpin consumer roles and generally promote well-resourced consumer leadership roles.”


Dr Louise Byrne

The Commission extends a warm welcome to Dr Louise Byrne.

Louise works within the mental health sector from the perspective of her own experience of significant mental health challenges, service use and recovery.  For over 15 years Louise experienced hospitalisation and extended periods of debilitating mental unwellness, before finding her niche as a lived experience/consumer practitioner. She now helps bridge the gap between the experiences of people using mental health services and the perceptions of service providers.

Louise has worked from her lived experience in a variety of roles in government, non-government and tertiary settings since 2005. Louise’s PhD and subsequent research explores the emerging lived experience/consumer workforce in Australia.

Louise will commence working with the Commission in August on a part time basis in conjunction with her other role as a Lecturer in Lived Experience Mental Health with CQUniversity Australia.

Contact Louise at

Mental Health Week 2015

Value mental healthAchievement Awards

Do you value mental health? Are you improving the understanding and awareness of mental health in the community or know someone that is?

Consider nominating for a Mental Health Achievement Award. Don’t be shy — your achievement can inspire others. There are many categories for outstanding service of individuals and organisations. Nominate here

MHW15 Events

Have you planned your Mental Health Week yet? Great suggestions and event organisation tips — from morning tea to a major event — are available on the MHW15 website

Don’t forget to register your event, no matter how big or small, to show your support

This month the Mental Health Achievement Awards were launched with Brisbane’s corporate leaders, promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Sector news

Celebrating the work of volunteers

Group 61 volunteers have been doing great work helping patients transition from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital mental health unit back into the community as part of a pilot project with North Brisbane Partners in Recovery.

The success of the Community Connection pilot project was celebrated on 2 June 2015 at the launch of the evaluation report.

The Commission is pleased to support Group 61’s volunteer training by supplying them with 100 Mental Health First Aid Manuals.

Seeking mentors: Isis the Eating Issues Centre

Isis the Eating Issues Centre is looking for people with lived experience on the Sunshine Coast and Darling Downs regions to take part in their peer mentor program.

The Mentor, Meal Support, Training and Wellbeing Program addresses service gaps for people recovering from eating issues through a network of trained mentors. To find out more, go to Isis the Eating Issues Centre or email


  • Gambling Community Benefit Fund provides grants up to $35,000 to not for profit community groups in Queensland. The next funding round opens mid-July 2015 and closes 31 August 2015. Find out more here


  • NMHC Seclusion and Restraint Position Paper: A Case for Change. Read the paper here
  • QAI Book dis-Abled Justice: Reforms to justice for persons with disability in Queensland. More information here
  • SANE Australia has released the Ageing Well guide to assist older Australians living with mental illness, their family and friends, develop a plan for the future. Download the Ageing Well guide here


  • 3 July 2015 Dovetail Webinar: Practical Harm Reduction – More information here
  • 22-24 July 2015 Australian Winter School Conference – Sofitel Central Brisbane. Unleash Potential is the exciting theme of the 2015 Australian Winter School. The conference will provide an opportunity for delegates to examine and discuss drug and alcohol treatment approaches, analyse and debate emerging trends and research and identify and examine ways to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the sector. Register here
  • 23 July 2015 Orygen Roadshow – Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health will be hosting a free forum open to anyone working in youth mental health, including people working in health, education, juvenile justice, child protection, public, private and not for profit organisations. Register here
  • 26-29 July 2015 National Suicide Prevention Conference, Hobart — Themed ‘Changing Systems, Changing Lives’ the annual conference and workshops aims to benefit those who are working in, and supported by, suicide prevention programs. Register here
  • 13-14 August 2015 National Acquired Brain Injury Conference – Melbourne. More informationhere
  • 25-28 August 2015 TheMHS Conference & PreConference Forums & Workshops – Early bird registrations available until 10 July 2015. Register here
  • 28 August 2015 CheckUP Health Leaders' Forum – theme is "Primary Health Care: Making It Happen". Register here
  • 28 August 2015 Micah Projects Moonlight Magic Dinner Dance – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. The Moonlight Magic Dinner Dance is not a fundraising event but one which focuses on creating an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to focus on what we have in common, rather than our differences. Book your tickets here
  • 11-12 September 2015 PTSD Forum 2015 — Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Registerhere
  • 28-30 September 2015 2015 National Indigenous Men’s and Women’s Network Conference– Darwin. Find out more here


  • Picture This survey – Be part of a national community conversation about the images used to portray mental illness. Take the SANE Australia online survey here
  • Global Drug Survey 2015 – Over 100,000 people from around the world (4300 from Australia) provided information on drug use, harm, harm reduction strategies and more. Read the results of the survey here