A travelling commission will meet in the nation’s capital this week to hear from people with lived experience of Australia’s mental health support systems.

It will be the fifth stop on a three-month long tour across the country to understand how Australians are interacting with mental health and suicide prevention services and how they can be improved.

The National Mental Health Commission expects its Connection2022 tour will provide critical insights as it develops a framework with recommendations to the federal government.

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The commission has already visited Lismore, Dubbo and Bourke in regional NSW, where communities have been rocked by drought, floods, a mouse plague and the pandemic.

The commission is visiting the NSW south coast town of Batemans Bay on Monday before heading to Canberra on Tuesday. 

Despite being in the early stages of the tour, there are already common themes emerging from each community, commission head Christine Morgan told AAP. 

“One of the positives we’ve seen is people are generally more comfortable with recognising that mental health is as central to overall wellbeing as physical health,” she said.

“I think that is a result of the pandemic where more people started talking about how they were coping with their mental health.” 

Communities are still reeling from lockdowns and isolation requirements, Ms Morgan said.

“The mental health consequences of COVID-19 don’t finish with a vaccine,” she said.

“People talk about the fear they felt and the impact of the disconnection when schools and businesses, whole towns locking down and being stuck at home.”

In each location the commission holds roundtables with community leaders, mental health providers and people with lived experience, as well as holding in-person community meetings.

Ms Morgan said the tour had so far seen a good turnout by locals keen to share their views, which is important for informing future policies.

“Significant changes and investments have been made at national, state and territory levels,” she said.

“For current and future commitments to have the greatest effect we need to assess the impact of those commitments on the ground. 

“Real change can only be measured by the reality of a person’s experience and the improvements this makes to their mental health and wellbeing.”

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