Written by Rowena Jonas, Practice Advisor at Wellways

The Royal Commission into Mental Health recommendation to provide dedicated resources for family members, carers and supporters of people with mental health needs is important because it means people have finally been heard.

It also recognises that everyone is impacted by mental health and that family, carers and supporters play a significant role in supporting good mental health of everyone in a ‘family’. If carers are supported holistically the people and relationships around them improve.

Rowena at the Wellways office
Rowena at the Wellways office

Carers often put their needs second to the person they support, leading to poor physical health. The caring role can mean that work is not an option leading to financial insecurity. The worst outcome though is the feeling of isolation.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect Centres will provide practical support for families such as connection with financial supports, peer support and peer education about the caring role and being in relationships with others while looking after our own needs.

The Connect Centre model hopes to address the stigma of mental health issues and diagnoses by providing peer connection and localised public awareness and education. The centres will employ a significant peer workforce providing opportunities for employment.

It is my hope that Connect Centres will provide the missing link in community connection and support for families where mental health issues are dominating family dynamics.

I wanted to be a part of ensuring families, carers and supporters were seen and heard.

Wellways began as a group of carers coming together for support and advocate for services. This mission has not changed.

We have learned a few things along the way but support for families dealing with often impossible situations are not getting the assistance they need. We know that peer connection, education about self-care, relationships, mental health crisis planning and empathy building all support families to thrive. Practical support is also very important.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect Centres are recognition that people supporting others with mental health issues are doing it tough out there but they as peers have the answers. Designated and increased funding and centering lived experience expertise will help to futureproof support for families in Victoria.