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About Our Turn to Speak

Our Turn to Speak is a national survey that seeks to understand the life experiences of people living with severe and complex mental health issues in Australia.

This survey is being conducted by SANE Australia’s Anne Deveson Research Centre in partnership with the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, with the support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Living with mental health issues in Australia

More than 690,000 Australians aged 18 and over live with complex mental health issues. Our Turn to Speak will investigate the life experiences – whether positive or negative – of people living with these issues.

We want to understand if and how a person’s experience of mental health issues impacts the way they are treated by others in different areas of their lives. These “life domains”, include:

  • housing
  • employment
  • education
  • healthcare
  • mental healthcare
  • finance and insurance
  • public spaces and recreation
  • mass media
  • social media
  • relationships
  • welfare and social services
  • community groups
  • justice and legal services
  • cultural, faith, or spiritual practices and communities.

The data collected will then be used to inform future advocacy efforts as we work towards improved social outcomes and support for all Australians affected by complex mental health issues.

Why get involved?

In order to advocate for better support and social outcomes for people affected by complex mental health issues, we are seeking a sample of 7,000 respondents, aged 18 and over, who reflect Australia’s diverse population.

The findings will support SANE Australia and partners to advocate for the needs of people living with severe and complex mental health issues. Our ultimate goal is to make a real difference in the lives of people affected by complex mental health issues through support, research and advocacy.

By sharing their experiences, participants can help us understand where change is needed.

Research methodology

Step 1: Literature review

Our research journey began by reviewing the scientific literature on previous studies of stigma and discrimination related to mental health issues. This review informed our theoretical and methodological approach to developing the Our Turn to Speak survey.

The search focussed on finding established high-quality measures of stigma and discrimination that could be used in our survey. We found that no single measure met the complex needs of the National Stigma Report Card project. Therefore, the first draft of the survey was created as a hybrid that drew upon on a shortlist of the most reliable, valid, and appropriate candidate measures, and adapted them, where necessary, to the needs of the National Stigma Report Card.

Step 2: Delphi Consensus quality assurance process

A ‘Delphi’ Consensus quality assurance process was undertaken to ensure the quality of the draft survey. A panel of experts provided feedback through two rounds of consultation on the draft survey, and the validity, utility, acceptability, accessibility and safety of these items.

These experts included:

  • people with lived experience of complex mental health issues,
  • family, friends and carers,
  • stigma researchers,
  • other mental health sector stakeholders,
  • stakeholders and service providers from homelessness, youth, health and medical, employment, legal/justice, rural/regional/remote, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, disability, LGBTIQA+, and culturally and linguistically diverse sectors and communities.

Step 3: Pilot study

Next, the refined draft of the Our Turn to Speak survey was tested in a pilot study of 150 people. This pilot study aimed to:

  • identify survey problems,
  • examine the statistical properties of the survey and the users’ experience,
  • investigate the acceptability, safety and accessibility of the survey language for people living with complex mental health issues.

The final version of the Our Turn to Speak survey was developed on the basis of this pilot study data.

Step 4: Our Turn to Speak

The Our Turn to Speak survey ran from October 2019 to March 2020. Approximately 2,000 people living with complex mental health issues participated online, or via a telephone or face-to-face interview with a member of the research team.

Meet the team

Dr Michelle Blanchard

Director, Anne Deveson Research Centre

Dr Michelle Blanchard is the Deputy CEO at SANE Australia and the founding Director of SANE’s Anne Deveson Research Centre which partners with people with mental illness and their family, friends and colleagues to drive policy and social change. Michelle also holds an appointment as a Honorary Senior Fellow in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Prior to joining SANE, Michelle held senior roles at the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. She is also a Non-Executive Director of youth mental health organisation batyr.


Dr Christopher Groot

Research Lead

Dr Christopher Groot is a Lecturer in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is the Director of the School’s Mental Illness Stigma Lab and conducts research in areas of complex mental illness, stigma, and mental health service delivery.

He has a background in large scale mental health service delivery, and has governed the clinical and research aspects of national services including the Suicide Call Back Service, SuicideLine Victoria, ATAPS All Hours Suicide Support Service, Beyond Blue Infoline, MensLine Australia, the Australian Defence Force All-Hours Triage Service, Vietnam Veterans After Hours Counselling Service, and more.


Dr Imogen Rehm

Research Fellow

Prior to joining SANE in 2019, Imogen was a psychology lecturer at RMIT University. She has also worked in clinical research and project management positions at the National eTherapy Centre at Swinburne University and at headspace. In 2017, Imogen was awarded a SANE Australia Hocking Fellowship to develop resources for Australians with body-focused repetitive behaviour disorders (BFRBs).

Imogen is also a Clinical Psychologist in private practice where she provides treatment especially for obsessive-compulsive related disorders, including BFRBs and hoarding. Imogen serves on the Anxiety Recovery Centre of Victoria committee of management.


Beth Hobern

Research Assistant

Beth completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from the University of Melbourne at the end of 2018. With a background in Psychology and Islamic Studies, Beth focussed on examining the roles of positive symptomatology and individual differences in the elicitation of public stigma towards schizophrenia during her Honours year.


Lisa Sweeney

Head of Policy and Advocacy

Prior to commencing with SANE, Lisa has held various policy and research roles with the Victorian Government across health reform, prisoner health, and alcohol and gambling regulation portfolios. Throughout her career, Lisa has maintained a keen interest in mental health advocacy and has held a number of volunteer positions including serving on the boards of Tandem and grassroots advocacy organisation Australians for Mental Health. Lisa has academic qualifications in Arts (Political Science, Social Theory), Health Sciences, and is currently undertaking a Masters of Public Health.


Rikki Morgan

Communications Officer

Before joining SANE, Rikki worked in various communications and customer advocacy positions for the Salvation Army, the Australian Podiatry Association, and Jetstar Airways. She has also volunteered in an array of media production and screenwriting roles.

Rikki has academic qualifications in Professional Communication, Arts (sociology and politics), and completed a Master of Social Policy in 2016.

Project partners

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Anne Deverson Research Centre home
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Paul Ramsay Foundation home
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SANE Australia acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as traditional custodians of the land on which it operates, and pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging. SANE is committed to providing a safe, culturally appropriate, inclusive service for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, faith, disability, sexuality, or gender identity.

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