“When you live with a mental health condition, it’s good to be valued and considered as a decision-maker.”

Cate is a member of the Consumer Participation Group, a group that works with local service providers to strengthen the voice of people with mental health issues within our health system.

The group meets monthly to review mental health services policies and other key decision-making documents for mental health services that are delivered within our region.

When asked why being a member of the group is important to her Cate said; “As a person who is a consumer of mental health services, it can feel like decisions are made from the top, and things are ‘done’ to you. In this group, you are heard and you can make a difference. You can explain the experience of the service – the good and the bad.”

Recently the Consumer Participation Group worked with Bendigo Health to provide consumer feedback on their Mental Health Service Guide. Andrew McSwain is a support person from the group’s auspice Golden City Support Services. Andrew McSwain is a Manager from the group’s auspice Golden City Support Services. Andrew describes how members are resourced to responding to a big and complex task like a mental health service guide.

“The design and structure of support for the group is essential, so we can contribute to major projects like this for Bendigo Health. It is what makes our group successful,” says Andrew.

Francis McCormick of Bendigo Health said that the group is fantastic to work with, and provides invaluable insight and assistance with service development and improving services for our community.

Having a broad and diverse voice is important to the Consumer Participation Group. The group has hosted focus groups to hear about the experience of people using mental services and recently the group put in a submission into the Victorian Mental Health Royal Commission.

“We are a group of older people,” says group member Jeff. “We are getting creative and making opportunity for other people to share their perspective.”

“We asked young people – ‘what was their experience of the mental health system?’. They presented things to us so that we can share their voice and the voice of other people’s lived experiences. We have done this in Echuca, Maryborough and Swan Hill,” says Jeff.

“If there are people who are users of the mental health system and they want to have a say, but can’t come to us, we go to them.”

Find more about Consumer Participation Group and Golden City Support Services at www.gcss.org.au   or call 1800 001 005.

The Bendigo Health Mental Health Guide is available online.