Mental Health Literacy
The Mental Health Literacy Project is funded by the Australian Government and led by the Mental Health Commission of NSW.
This project aims to make it easier for people to get clear and simple information about their health, and to access mental health services that are right for them.
Working with people with a lived experience of mental ill-health, Healthy North Coast is designing, testing and evaluating education and training activities for local health professionals to ensure they meet people’s needs.
What is mental health literacy?
Health literacy is about health professionals talking to people in a way that meets each person’s needs, and not using medical words that may confuse people or be misunderstood. Mental health literacy includes:
- being able to recognise mental and physical health conditions
- knowing what professional help is available and how to access it
- understanding risk factors and causes, and how to find mental and physical health information
- attitudes that promote recognising mental ill-health and appropriate help-seeking.
Supporting health providers to improve mental health literacy
Health information can be difficult to understand. The right mental health services can be hard to access. If we can make these things easier, we can help people improve their health or stop their health getting worse.
The project will listen to people who have a lived experience of mental ill-health, and their carers and kin, to understand their experiences. This information will be workshopped with people with a lived experience of mental ill-health and health providers to come up with a range of ideas to improve their experience.
Education and training activities will then be developed for health providers to improve their health literacy based on these ideas.
Following a series of co-design workshops from 2019 to 2021 with organisations, health professionals, people with lived experience and community members, 2 action areas are being prioritised to help improve mental health literacy in our communities.
These actions areas are:
- Programs to help people act early when they feel that ‘something is not quite right’
- Good and easily available information on community supports – both formal and informal
Mental Health Literacy Lived Experience Panel
Healthy North Coast is working alongside a Mental Health Literacy Lived Experience Panel to develop and design local resources and information that will improve the way people access community supports and reach out for support when they need needed.
The Mental Health Literacy Lived Experience Panel are community members from across our region who have a lived experience of accessing mental health supports in the community (such as general practitioners, psychologists, mental Health or counselling services).
The knowledge and insights from the Mental Health Literacy Lived Experience Panel are vital to ensure the tools or resources we develop are local, easy to understand and help others in the community to reach out and seek support.
Watch this video for more information on the Health Literacy Initiative
NSW Mental Health Commission 2019 workshops.
A state-wide workshop series was held in December 2019. This included with people with a lived experience of mental ill-health, researchers, health professionals and community organisations. The theme was “Mental Healthcare Made Easy” and everyone was asked:
What do people and organisations that provide services to people with mental ill-health need so that they can respond effectively to the diverse needs of those people?
What we learned from the discussions on the day was that 60% of people do not understand the information that they are given about their health due to the way that health care is delivered now. This means that they can not take part in discussions and decisions about their health care. This leads to poorer health outcomes.
Health literacy is about health professionals talking to people in a way that meets each person’s needs, and not using medical words that may confuse people or be misunderstood. Better health literacy will allow people to take part in managing their health, and lead to better health outcomes.
The aim of this project is to improve the health literacy of health professionals so that they can provide a better level of care for people experiencing mental ill-health.
In September 2020, a survey was shared, asking people questions about health care. For example:
- Do you find it easy to understand the health information and advice given to you?
- Do you feel supported by people involved in your health care?
- How easy or difficult did you find it to get the health care you needed?
The information collected through the surveys helped us have a better understanding of the challenges people face when accessing mental health care and support and will help us to think about the voices of people with lived experience when looking for solutions.
The survey answers were then used to create short stories about the challenges people faced when trying to look after their health. The people in the stories were made up, but they were based on the answers that were given in the survey.
Workshops were held in late 2020. Participants were asked to come up with ideas to help people take better care of their health, based on the stories created from the survey information.
The three areas of focus were:
- What are we already doing well, what can we do to support existing activities?
- What are the gaps or challenges?
- What capacity-building activities could be developed/utilised to support health professionals to improve health outcomes for people experiencing mental ill-health?
In 2020 and 2021, Healthy North Coast held a series of co-design workshops with organisations, health professionals, people with lived experience and the community. During these workshops, we discussed 11 action areas to improve mental health literacy for both people accessing services and for organisations providing services.
The 11 action areas are:
- Package of phone and internet-based services that are local, friendly, and flexible
- Multiple systems to help people connect with the community supports they need
- Multiple well-trained, supported and connected peer-support options (formal and informal, one-to-one and group, face to face and online)
- Guidelines, tools, and training for helpful, user-friendly intake processes, along with assistance where required (esp. urgent for NDIS)
- Programs to help people act early when they feel that ‘something is not quite right’
- ‘Whole health’ strategy to address the needs of the ‘whole person’, including their physical and mental health needs
- Engagement with schools and young people
- Connected training for all health workers
- Involve more workers from the community (e.g., youth workers, teachers, librarians)
- Good and easily available information on community supports (formal and informal)
- Ways to identify whose needs are not being met and to reward services for reaching out to the whole community (data and indicators).
The Lived Experience Panel and Healthy North Coast are working with an organisation called Beacon Strategies to deliver the Mental Health Literacy Project.
In August 2022, two workshops were held with members of the Lived Experience Panel.
Workshop 1: We asked the Lived Experience Panel to share experiences of seeking help for a mental health concern to identify a set of ‘needs’ relating to mental health literacy
Workshop 2: We explored practical solutions that responded to the needs found in the first workshop.
We will test the potential solutions with the Lived Experience Panel and other key stakeholders, through a ‘feedback loop’. This will be how we will be able to test and prioritise ideas to develop supports for reaching out and seeking support.
The Lived Experience Panel will then be involved in ‘Product Development’ workshops to design programs to respond to the two action areas of the Mental Health Literacy Project.
The Mental Health Literacy Project has developed new tools and resources to support mental health literacy in our region.
Working with a panel of people with lived experience of mental health challenges, we have developed a new webpage that supports people in the community to develop self-care strategies.
This resource is for anyone who wants to:
- maintain and nurture their mental wellbeing
- address areas of stress in their life that may contribute to mental health challenges.
The page includes:
- information about what self-care is and why it’s important
- self-care strategies that have been shared by people with their own lived experience of mental health challenges. a guide that you can download to develop your own self-care plan and make self-care strategies a part of your day-to-day.
Click here to go to the Supporting self-care webpage.