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National Contributing Life Survey Project

We believe that everyone has the right to lead a contributing life.

A Contributing Life means a fulfilling life enriched with close connections to family and friends, and experiencing good health and wellbeing to allow those connections to be enjoyed. It means having something to do each day that provides meaning and purpose, whether this is a job, supporting others or volunteering. It means having a home and being free from financial stress and uncertainty. It means opportunities for education and good health care, all without experiencing discrimination due to having a mental health difficulty. 

Recommendation One from our first report card was that a regular independent survey of people’s experiences of and access to all mental health services is essential to driving real improvement.

The National Contributing Life Survey Project was about developing a qualitative methodology, process and a framework to monitor and report on the experiences of Australians with mental health issues, their families and support people.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has been engaged to develop options on how best to conduct a national rollout of the Contributing Life Survey. Since this time, elements of the methodology have been considered in other nationsl surveys including the YES survey. 

The Project has had four main components to date:

The Contributing Life pilot online survey

The Contributing Life Survey Pilot surveyed people with a lived experience of mental health issues, their families and support people. Conducted in 2013, the survey sought to find:

  • What helps people to experience a good life; 
  • What hinders this; and
  • Importantly, what would make a difference to their lives.

Population Survey

The Commission tested the relevance of the domains of the Contributing Life concept to all Australians via a randomised population survey (by Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews). The survey explored how people’s responses to the domain questions vary as their ratings of their health and mental health vary. The population survey also  compared the responses to each of the domain questions of those who report they have sought help for a mental health problem in the past twelve months, with those who report not having sought such help.

Facilitated conversations and yarns with targeted population groups

Contributing Life Conversations targeted specific hard to reach groups with lived experience of mental health issues and their families, friends and other supporters. These groups were identified by the Project Advisory Group (PAG) to the National Contributing Life Survey Project.

Each conversation was organised and conducted in partnership with an organisation that is known to the selected group. The partnering organisation provided assistance by hosting the conversation with participants and co-facilitating the conversation with the Commission.

Contributing Life Conversations Campaign

The Commission invited all Australians to host conversations in their homes, communities and workplaces about what a contributing life means to them. This campaign was undertaken in August 2013 and saw more than 150 conversations hosted right around the country. The results from these conversations helped to inform the Commission’s 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

Former Commissioner Janet Meagher explains what A Contributing Life means to her.

"When we talk about a contributing life, we mean a fulfilling life – recognising that those people who live with mental health difficulties want and need the same things as everyone else."

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