It all began in November 2009 when a ‘call-to-action’ letter written by Margaret Doherty, MHM2 Convenor, was published in The West Australian newspaper. The letter highlighted the inadequacies of the system to deliver safe and effective treatment and care to people who experienced mental health and alcohol and other drug problems and asked if there were people in the community who wished to gather to take action around this. Responses were surprisingly swift and clear about the level of unmet need and distress being experienced by individuals and their families and friends.
In December 2009 a few people gathered together and a group meeting was convened for February 2010 when 35 people gathered in a sports hall in Mount Hawthorn, Perth. From there a Steering Group was convened.
So much to do….where to start?
The greatest challenge was, in the face of lots of systemic gaps, where to start? Alerted to a 2009 Report by the WA Law Reform Commission which investigated the need for a Court Diversion Report for people with mental illness, the group decided to start there. The next 2 years were spent gathering information and allies; learning more about how decisions were made and by whom; and supporting individuals and families to speak out about their experiences under the MHM2 umbrella. This ‘shelter’ was important as many people found sharing experiences both stigmatising and distressing. We learned advocacy on the run: how to get our message across effectively and to whom; the new language of service provision which varied across different sectors such as health, mental health, alcohol and other drug and justice and how to work with media.
In May 2012, the WA Government announced funding for a pilot program which is now known as the Start Court and is unique in Australia. The court which brings together a team of mental health nurses, psychiatrist, peer workers and judicial staff is located at the Perth Magistrates Court. (For information on Start Court, click on http://www.magistratescourt.wa.gov.au/S/start_court.aspx?uid=1798-2813-8239-9839 )
Buoyed by the success of the ‘Court Intervention’ campaign, members continued to participate in a range of forums which were taking place following the commencement of Western Australia’s new Mental Health Commission in March 2010. It seemed like that where 2 or more people were meeting, there was an MHM2 member ready and willing to contribute to the discussion from the perspective of people and families experiencing both mental distress and alcohol and other drug use. These individuals and families were often also navigating poverty, homelessness, loneliness, periods of imprisonment or detention.
In 2010, MHM2 began the Families 4 Families WA prorgram and in 2011 partnered with Cyrenian House drug and alcohol agency which provides a specialist counsellor to attend the bi-monthly, peer-led meetings. See Families 4 Families WA on page menu for further details.
MHM2 has also continued to be a leader in the advocacy for the review of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996.
In 2015, MHM2 was awarded the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Award for Human Rights, Equity & Diversity in Mental Health.