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Mental Health

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A conversation that not too long ago was taboo within our community is being brought to the forefront particularly in the Dubbo electorate. In recent times the issue and any conversation about mental illness was one that would see people take a Benji Marshall size side step to avoid. It is such a difficult issue to comprehend when much about mental health, depression, anxiety, traumatic stress disorders and other like conditions are within their very nature considered irrational behaviours trying to be understood by a considered rational mind.

Throughout my career mental health issues have really been at the forefront of the work I have undertaken, both in the field as a police officer, within my responsibilities of human resource management in police and even on a personal note. I congratulate those individuals and organisations who have courageously brought this issue into the public domain, people like Winston Churchill, political leaders and high profile sportspeople and key organisations like Black Dog and Beyond Blue. With their help mental health issues are no longer like a pariah, and those charged with providing assistance for people suffering such health concerns can now access and receive the support services they need.

One of the biggest challenges I faced while policing at a street level was the crossover of people who suffered from mental health problems who ended up in the judicial system. COPS are not diagnostically trained and receive little in the way of training and education in how to detect or handle people suffering. This situation has been on the constant improve over time and a cultural shift is recognising and providing support for police who suffered from related illnesses as well. We are not there yet but we are on the right track.

Recently in town was the Hon. Kevin Humphries, Minister for Mental Health, Healthy Lifestyles and Western NSW who has been given the first Ministry ever dedicated to this significant subject matter. One of his first initiatives is to establish a NSW Mental Health Commission a vitally important opportunity for the Government to support those suffering, those carers and service providers to have their say on the future provision of mental health services in NSW. This initiative is a refreshing approach and coincides with long overdue national initiatives along this vein, so that together hopefully we can achieve an improved and sustained management approach that can be achieved in the provision of mental health services and support. As your local member I was delighted that Kevin chose Dubbo to commence the first of the consultation process in order to build the best Mental Health Commission possible. This process allows people from across the sector to provide honest open and frank input into the challenges and roadblocks within the current system that the Commission needs to overcome. Soon I will also have the opportunity to host a forum to allow for the broader community to contribute to the Commission's Taskforce so that everyone will get the opportunity to have their say.

I know through my own personal experience, that my cup runneth over some years ago. For me while I 'danced with shadows and ran from grey skies' I came from a changing policing culture that when I started 'Big boys don't cry' and 'COPS are bullet proof' attitudes existed. I dealt with my issues like most police did dealing with an assault on my life, the cradling of children lost to their parents and all those horrific jobs a policing career brings and by rotten luck came my way far too often, by retreating to the age old remedy of alcohol and emotionally withdrawing from my family, going into my shell and seeking a cavalier mind set of welcoming any new threat that presented danger to myself. Thankfully for me before my family or I were destroyed, attitudes shifted considerably towards a culture where support to seek help was encouraged. It was also through the love and support of my family, my colleagues and in particular team members from whom I didn't hide my challenge that helped me overcome and survive a significant period in my life. I was lucky that I was able to access the support I needed and like many survivors have found that a battle with mental health issues doesn't have to be terminal, nor a lifelong proposition, there can be outcomes of survival and better days ahead, I look forward to contributing as your Local Member in our Governments attempts to achieve these very outcomes for many more. We are very lucky here in our electorate to have wonderful organisations that do so much to support those in need. My visit recently with the Minister to NALAG centre was a key reminder that there is still much to do, but at least we can now openly have the conversation.

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