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New national mental health and suicide communications charter launched

5 September 2018

Everymind has today officially launched The National Communications Charter: A unified approach to mental health and suicide prevention (The Charter).

Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt was in Melbourne to launch the The Charter, which is being rolled out ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 and R U OK?DAY on September 13.

Everymind Director Jaelea Skehan says The Charter will guide the mental health and suicide prevention sector in showing leadership to Australians on how to talk about mental health and suicide, as well as improve how the issues are responded to in workplaces, governments and the community.

“This charter is about the sector collaborating and showing important leadership and vision to our communities, businesses, organisations, key media and political spokespeople,” Ms Skehan said.

“It is so important our sector leads by example, because we know people living with mental illness can still be shunned in their workplaces, talked down to from our own services, or excluded from their community.

“It is more than just the words we use, it’s about including people, valuing people and encouraging everyone to take action – whether that is seeking help or offering help to others.”

The Charter was originally developed by the National Mental Health Commission in 2014. In 2017, Everymind was funded to redevelop The Charter as part the Government’s new suicide prevention reform investment.

It will be hosted on Life in Mind, a comprehensive national gateway, which enables knowledge exchange, encouraging sector leadership through collaboration and engagement.

Also managed by Everymind, the Life in Mind gateway provides information about suicide and organisations that are working in the suicide prevention sector, suicide prevention programs and resources, as well as information on current policies and data relating to suicide.

Minister Hunt said The Charter provides practical guidance for individuals, businesses and communities on how to talk safely about the often difficult issues of mental health and suicide.

“I’m delighted to officially launch The Charter, which aims to generate a united voice to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and normalise help-seeking behaviour,” Minister Hunt said.

“The Charter provides guidance on language and communications in supporting people with a mental health condition."

Ms Skehan said The Charter is designed to guide the way everyone talks about mental health and wellbeing, social and emotional wellbeing, mental ill-health and suicide prevention, with each other and the community.

“We know over four million Australians will experience mental illness this year and about eight people die by suicide each day. These are not small issues, they are big issues that require a big response.

“What we say as a sector and as a community can literally be the difference between whether or not a person feels comfortable to speak up and seek help, which can have tragic consequences if they stay silent.”

Jaelea Skehan, Everymind Director

To support the development of The Charter, a Life in Mind Champions group was formed to provide leadership across settings, sectors and communities about safe and effective communication and collaboration. 

The group included individuals from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, health sector, lived experience, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

“Our communication should empower people to take action. We need to build communities where people have the capacity to offer help to others and ask for help when they need it,” Ms Skehan added.

“What we say and how we say it matters. Signing The Charter is a way to demonstrate our commitment to working together to promote wellbeing, healing and recovery.”

The Charter will be implemented by organisations and the local community through education, collaboration, using safe language and promotion. Some examples of this include:

  • Sharing The Charter and online training module (coming soon) with new employees and communications staff
  • Organising or encouraging participation in programs/days that promote help-seeking behaviours (e.g World Suicide Prevention Day – September 20, R U OK? Day – September 13, World Mental Health Day – October 10)
  • Finding support programs or services that uphold the principles of The Charter in the local community and considering nominating them for an award (e.g LiFE Awards, Mental Health Matters Awards)
  • Empowering people to talk safely about mental ill-health and suicide (e.g Conversations Matter; R U OK? How to ask and #YouCanTalk campaigns).

For more information on The Charter and its Life in Mind Champions visit, www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au...