The innovative Voicebox program, a Partners in Recovery Gold Coast initiative, offering training in advocacy and peer research has empowered a group of Gold Coast residents to help drive improvements in access to mental health services and reduce community stigma of mental illness.
The Voicebox 1 and 2 projects, saw people with a lived experience of mental health issues attend a series of workshops to improve skills in advocacy, peer research, presentation, public speaking, project management and creative documentation.
The project supported participants to develop the skills needed to confidently and effectively advocate on behalf of consumers with mental health issues and to share their experiences. The initial outputs of the project included 32 inspirational and thought-provoking digital stories, or short films, that can be accessed at www.pirgoldcoast.com.au/voicebox. The multimedia stories include insights into what it is like to live with a mental illness, be the carer of children diagnosed with autism, the importance of support and the journey of recovery. Although issues of bullying, drugs, homelessness and child abuse are also highlighted, the overarching theme is of hope and increasing understanding about mental health.
Each video (between 1-3 minutes long) recognises that people are not alone, reduces stigma and encourages people to talk about their situation and seek support. Partners in Recovery encourages all to use these videos as an educational tool, for individuals, their families, carers and health professionals.
Since the Voicebox program further projects have been developed by this group of consumer advocates through the subsequent Activate Your Voice and Human Voice Connections groups highlighting the sustainability of the project. A number of participants now work in paid and unpaid consumer advocacy roles, as consumer group facilitators and as guest speakers sharing their experiences.
Voicebox was a highly successful project that enabled participants to develop new skills in technology, engage with others, understand advocacy options and most importantly to be heard. The videos have been requested to be used for training by employment services, clinical staff, and in informing the general public about mental health issues. Most recently showcasing during the New York Mental Health Film Festival during Mental Health Week 2016.
Voicebox was funded by Gold Coast Partners in Recovery, a federally funded program.