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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Rachel Bateman

Rachel* has been involved with the mental health system since she was 14 years old, with several admissions to inpatient units. Rachel felt that her local area mental health service was not offering her anything more than medication, with little access to different therapeutic approaches.

In my experience, clinicians within [area mental health services] do not view their role as providing therapy … They just keep saying, ‘That’s not what we’re here for. Go and get therapy elsewhere’.

Rachel feels that while ‘the phrase “person‑centred care” is thrown around a lot’ it is not embedded in mental health services.

If organisations were truly person‑centred, they’d be set up in a way that delivers the support that people need at various parts of their recovery journey.

Rachel advocates for a broader range of supports.

There needs to be a variety of support options available to people, whether it be: phone support; drop‑in clinics; care or food packages; follow‑up appointments at home (where people feel comfortable); and access to groups, including groups in the community ([for example] art classes, visits to the zoo, cafes).

Rachel noted there are a number of people who have helped with her healing including her GP, a private social worker and a peer support worker.

For me, seeing a peer‑support worker doesn’t take the place of support from the social worker I see but it has been such an integral part of me starting to view myself as someone who isn’t ‘sick’ or ‘broken’.

Rachel said she has made her own connections to these supports, and while her GP is willing to bulk bill, Rachel said she has not always had the financial means to see the private social worker.

I’ve recently been able to access weekly support from her. If I’m able to access this support on an ongoing basis, I feel this will be one of the most significant opportunities I have to heal and hopefully not struggle with significant mental health issues over the long term.

[M]y relationship with my private social worker is one where I can receive therapy. I get to have genuine conversations about how I’m feeling, about current day stressors and about past trauma.

Having agency in her own care planning and coordination is very important to Rachel.

I believe that all consumers should have access to sitting in on clinical reviews and handovers, if this is what they choose. I additionally believe that all mental health staff should co‑write notes with consumers wherever possible.

At the moment, the perspectives of clinicians are privileged … There needs to be a shift in ensuring that consumer perspectives are held central in the individual care that they receive.

Rachel’s mental health also improved with studying, where she found a new sense of purpose and created new friendships. She said she is currently feeling positive and has been self‑harming less frequently. She puts this down to having a job that she enjoys and a range of supports around her.

Some of the biggest things that are actually helping me as an individual are not actually any of the public mental health supports I’ve been getting—it’s the fact that I have, over the past year, been in a job that I love and that I feel secure in, and I am also receiving very beneficial support from my GP and the private sector.

Rachel currently works as part of the lived experience workforce and provides a consumer perspective at the executive level of an area mental health service.

Source: Witness Statement of Rachel Bateman (pseudonym), 16 June 2020.

Note: *Names have been changed in accordance with an order made by the Commission.