Mental Health Consumers Inc.
BEING – Mental Health Consumers Inc. is the independent, state-wide peak organisation for people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues in NSW.
BEING – Mental Health Consumers Inc. has over 20 years of rich history. Previously known as the NSW Consumer Advisory Group – Mental Health Inc (NSW CAG), BEING was originally established as a ministerial committee in 1992 in response to the First National Mental Health Plan. Consumer advisory groups were established in each state and territory in Australia to provide consumer and carer advice and oversight to the implementation of the First National Mental Health Plan at a state level. As such, NSW CAG was a committee of consumers and carers who provided advice to the Minister for Health…. Read More.
The lived experience of people is fundamental to all that BEING does and our work is underpinned by a commitment to upholding international human rights. BEING holds the following values:
Respect and dignity for all to enable inclusion
Social justice and equity to ensure participation
Belief in recovery to make it possible for every individual to recover
Integrity to ensure transparency and accountability
Fidelity to ensure the legitimate representation of the views of consumers
BEING works on understanding and advocating on issues that impact people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues. Our work includes:
BEING's 2019-2022 Strategic Plan can be viewed here.
Consumer is a short-hand term to mean a person who has or has had an experience of mentally ill health. Wherever possible BEING uses the term people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues or just ‘people’ and strongly encourage other organisations and policy writers to also use this terminology. The consumer movement started in the 60’s and 70’s as a reaction to the patient’s poor experiences of health care. Patients used the language of ‘consumer’ to highlight that they are paying for health services, and so the services should involve them in decision-making, provide good service and be accountable.
Not everyone agrees or identifies with the term consumer. How someone identifies themselves is an individual choice. For example, some people identify as a survivor, a person with a lived experience of mental ill-health, a sufferer. Some people may not consider their experience of mental health issues as a part of their identity at all.
BEING has made the following commitments:
All of BEING’s advertisements and position descriptions for staff recruitment encourage people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues to apply.
BEING can help you engage in systemic advocacy to change things for you and others. There are a number of different ways to engage in systemic advocacy. BEING can help you to connect with other consumers or groups who have similar concerns or ideas, provide information about systemic advocacy training and BEING works with people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues to speak at events and training sessions.
I want to complain about a service – can BEING help me?
Whilst BEING does not provide individual advocacy, your issue might not be an isolated incident and letting us know about it can help inform BEING's policy work and highlight an issue. Although we do not offer direct services, we will try our best to point you in the right direction.
Each organisation normally has their own complaint process. Depending on the service, you can consider contacting primary organisations who handle complaints. For example the NSW Ombudsman and NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.
Check out our Get Support page for a list of support services and resources.
Systemic advocacy, also called systems advocacy, means working to change the ‘system’, which includes law, policies and service. People often think about advocacy as lobbying the government but it’s much more than that. For example, BEING collaborates with services to improve the way they engage with consumers. Systemic advocacy can also involve making things happen outside of government. For example, BEING has worked with other organisations to develop videos to raise mental health awareness and help-seeking in Arabic-speaking communities. Systemic advocacy addresses broader issues that people do experience and are likely to experience across NSW. It’s an important way of achieving justice for people who have experience of disadvantage.
Other types of advocacy include self-advocacy and individual advocacy. Self-advocacy is when a person speaks up on their own behalf and in their own interests. Self-advocacy arose as a direct challenge to the practice of individual advocacy, which gives the power of advocacy to someone other than the person who the advocacy is for.
There are many ways you can get involved with BEING’s work, even if you don’t have a lived experience of mental health issues.
Your stories, experiences and expertise inform BEING’s policy work. We collect and record people’s experiences and viewpoints to inform our policy work. For privacy reasons, we make sure this information is de-identified when we discuss it in any of our publications that are accessible by people outside of BEING.
We aim to respond to people’s experiences and views in a fair way. BEING does not ignore any feedback whether it is from multiple people or one person. With people’s permission, we collect demographics information, such as age and cultural background, to ensure we are advocating for a diverse range of consumers and issues.
We work on issues that affect people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues. Much of the work that BEING does and the information BEING provides would also be relevant and helpful to carers and family members. Family members and carers may also wish to subscribe to or join organisations that advocate specifically for family members and carers, such as Mental Health Carers and Carers NSW.