The Legally Minded Project is a joint project of Northern Community Legal Centre and Mind Australia.
The Legally Minded Project aimed to explore and understand the impact of legal intervention on the lives of people with mental health issues, and to understand how legal intervention can improve the well-being and quality of life of people with mental ill-health.
NCLC clients with a range of mental health experiences were interviewed as part of the research, and de-identified findings from these interviews are included in the report.
On Tuesday 22 June 2021 and in partnership with Mind Australia, NCLC proudly launched the Legally Minded Report.
Legally Minded, funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board, ran from July 2020 to March 2021. The Report Launch was attended by over 70 participants, featuring opening remarks from NCLC’s Champion Justice Rita Incerti and a panel discussion with Louise Glanville, CEO Victoria Legal Aid and Emma King, CEO Victorian Council of Social Service.
During the event, NCLC’s Mental Health Support Coordinator Morgan Wright highlighted the success of the Project by providing examples from the Report research participants, demonstrating that when legal matters are causing concern for people living with mental ill-health, legal intervention can reduce barriers to their recovery. Describing the impact of legal issues, one research participant stated, ‘Because of the legal things, I am always stressed, because I don’t know what will happen next.’ However, after receiving support another participant stated, ‘I just felt like I had a new outlook on life. Like a whole weight was lifted off my shoulders. It just felt like I had a fresh start”.
Mind CEO Gill Callister noted that ‘many of the everyday problems our clients experience, such as housing or financial concerns, involve legal issues. The stress of legal problems can negatively impact on mental health. Solving legal concerns with the support of legal professionals, and in in the context of ongoing mental health support, reduces psychological distress and enables people to focus on their recovery.’
NCLC CEO Jenni Smith highlighted that ‘a key benefit of this project has been Mind staff and clients having a better understanding of where to access legal support. The project also highlighted the importance of lawyers understanding the extent of distress caused by legal issues, and the important role that mental health practitioners play in identifying and referring clients with legal issues. Our work has confirmed the importance of legal and mental health staff working in partnership to support clients to attain the best level of wellbeing.’
Fines, family violence and trauma, insurance claims and financial difficulties can all cause stress and negatively impact mental health. Despite this, there are too few partnerships between mental health and legal services to enable legal interventions like the kind explored in this Project.