Commissioner praises Valley's stance on mental health
THE Clarence Valley's move to take ownership of the community's mental health has been applauded by NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley.
Visiting Grafton on Wednesday as part of a tour through the NSW north coast, the commissioner spent time with members of the Our Healthy Clarence initiative, to find out how it came about, how it is being implemented, and the benefits it brought.
It was an approach he described as empowering.
"When you see a community come together like this it really is an incredible opportunity for the commission to look at how communities can use their own capacity and their own resilience to tackle really challenging issues," Mr Feneley said.
"The whole framing of this around communities' wellbeing and using all of the entities available is something that's incredibly impressive from our point of view, and likely to have more sustainability.
"Health can only really try to provide better services... but really the power is in the community itself."
Mr Feneley added that the Valley's developing mental health strategy was in line with the Mental Health Commission's vision for government to move away from a crisis-driven approach, which waits until people are unwell before action is taken.
Earlier in the day, the commissioner met with the Clarence Youth Action Group, headed by Clarence Valley Council's community development officer (youth) Giane Smajstr, which he called "a fantastic and powerful thing for this area".
"I was saying to them I derailed as a young person... and how meeting with a group like that would be incredibly uplifting and would be inclined to give a young person hope to see there's not one golden pathway through life," Mr Feneley said.
"To see young people who have learnt through their own lived experience of adversity, that they can come together share experience and support and find hope for a better pathway is something that's extraordinary."
And it appears the admiration was mutual.
"It was a wonderful opportunity for the group to talk to the commissioner about what's happening on the ground to support our communities," Ms Smajstr said.
"It was a real confidence boost for them."