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Alison Fairleigh

Alison Fairleigh

A guest post by Alison Fairleigh, a co-founder of the #RuralMH (Rural Mental Health) Chat. Originally posted at Talking Fairleigh.

Clip art: How to stop impulse buyingOnce upon a time there was a magical land called Contentia where the people lived peaceful lives – free from war and famine. Contentians went about their daily business working hard to create opportunities for their children and contributing to a consumer dominated society. They weren’t perfect, but Contentians understood how lucky they were to live in this wonderful land – happy to go with the flow and trust that their quality of life would always be guaranteed.

Clip art: ProfessorOne day however, a professor at one of Contentia’s most respectable academic institutions saw that Contentians had become complacent about their lives and he devised a cunning plan:

“I’ll tell the people they’re sick,” he declared, “and show them there’s only one way to be well: My Way! The people work hard for their children. If I tell them their children are sick, they’ll do whatever it takes to make them better again,” planned the ambitious professor.

Knowing it would be a huge undertaking, the ambitious professor recruited some strategic partners to help him with his venture. He needed:

Clip art: Health careA big business partner

Clip art: Make me look goodAn unproven, non-evidence-based “expert” in youth mental health

Clip art: EmperorAnd a politician vain and stupid enough to be putty in his hands.

Now the people of Contentia started seeing signs pop-up everywhere that mental illness was rampant in society.  They were being told that Contentia had one of the highest rates of depression in the modern world and this would require early intervention on a massive scale as young people were most at risk.  Contentians started to talk more about mental illness but weren’t quite sure what to do about it.

Clip art: AngelThe ambitious professor and his colleagues came up with a brilliant plan: “Let’s nominate our youth mental health expert for Contentian of the Year! That will give our scheme credibility and average Contentians won’t dare to question our knowledge or authority.” So that’s what they did.

Low and behold, the expert became Contentian of the Year and everyone looked to him for his opinion on all matters related to mental health and/or illness. No one ever questioned his advice or authority because … well, Contentia would never award Contentian of the Year to a person of a less than scrupulous nature!

Slowly but surely the ambitious professor’s plan was unfolding. He had the media and the government eating out of his hands. Every committee, advice group and panel on mental health in the land was in his favour and he was beginning to change the very landscape of mental health reform in Contentia. The power was exhilarating!

 Armed with the confidence and knowledge that they’d achieved all this, the ambitious professor and his colleagues used the silly politician to take funding from some of the most vulnerable people in Contentia, those being treated for mental illness; and redirected the funds to their two pet projects. Together they’d fudged evidence and statistics and made it all appear squeaky clean. Besides, if the vulnerable people didn’t like it, they’d never speak up because there was still such a stigma in society about having a mental illness.

Clip art: stigma

But a remarkable thing happened in Contentia – Contentians began to wake from their complacent slumber and say: “Hey … something’s not quite right here!” They began talking in social media forums and started to see that others had similar misgivings. The more they talked, the more support they found and slowly, but surely, the people began to find their voice. For the first time they questioned the authority of the ambitious professor and the youth mental health expert. Like most egotistically driven people, the ambitious professor and the expert didn’t respond well to criticism – they began to fray around the edges; and some of their so-called “evidence” proved to be false and not supported by their peers. This gave more people confidence to speak up and suddenly a movement was born.

People wrote to politicians demanding answers; an official Senate Enquiry was announced and more than 5,700 people put their names to a petition. It was beautiful to see the Contentians unite and speak up for their fundamental human rights of access to universal mental health care.


The story isn’t finished yet, as another chapter will be written when the Senate Enquiry delivers its report on Friday 28th October. Will there be a happy ending for the Contentians? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, you can join the people and add your support to their campaign by clicking here.

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