Black Dog Institute is one step closer to developing a network to support mob struggling with mental ill-health.

Led by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre, the network is being developed through extensive consultation with communities across the nation.

Head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre, Quandamooka woman, Leilani Darwin facilitated these virtual consultations.

“We have had an opportunity to host some national online yarning circles with mob who have lived experience and I feel so privileged to hear their stories and their journeys,” Darwin said.

“Even though we know how much our communities are impacted by suicide and mental ill-health, when you have families there that are losing 20 people in a year in the family group … the fact they can [attend and] talk about it is powerful,” said Darwin.

Darwin said the sessions informed Black Dog Institute regarding the gaps in services and systems.

They also created the framework for how the platform will operate and has developed a definition for ‘lived experience’ that is rooted in Indigenous perspectives and experiences.

“This year we will put out the definition on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience which will be a landmark time for us in actually having that reflected, and it being different to what is the westernised definition,” Darwin said.

Darwin emphasised the importance of lived experience in mental health support.

“It has been identified through the work of the [National Mental Health Commissioner and] Suicide Prevention Advisor to the Prime Minister, Christine Morgan, that lived experience is a missing component of suicide prevention initiatives and activities across the country,” she said.

“We need to hear from people who are living this, who actually have those insights to where they’ve tried to get support and experienced the issues and barriers.

“When you listen to those perspectives you can really make changes.”

The national network will be facilitated by Black Dog Institute. However, the team has identified communities that want their own grassroots networks.

“We will come in and provide all of our resources, our training, our development, our policies. We will work with them to support the organisations,” said Darwin.

“We want to move away from this tick the box approach, this isn’t that and that isn’t what we are there for.”

The network is scheduled to go live by January 2021.

By Rachael Knowles