Discrimination against people with mental illness is commonly occurring in the workplace, with unlawful practices needing immediate attention as part of the campaign for suicide prevention.

This is the message from Michael Burge, an independent mental health advocate with the National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF), who says he is receiving increasing feedback from lived experienced workers across Australia.

Mr Burge will be just one of the speakers at this week’s World Suicide Prevention Day (Sep 8) Community Forum hosted by Griffith’s Australian Institute for Suicide Prevention and Research (AISRAP) in Brisbane

Lived experience workers (also known as consumer consultants and peer workers) support people with mental illness in the workplace and are required to openly disclose their own experience of mental illness in order to take on their roles. They then share this experience to support others in need.

“It is very important that we look after the peer workforce in this country as they have a great deal to offer in relation to suicide prevention,” says Mr Burge, who himself is a suicide survivor as a veteran with 20 years in the military and a history of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“However for this to occur, discriminatory practices (including bullying and harassment) against peer workers in the workplace needs to be addressed immediately.

“Stressful workplace experiences have increased over the past few years, making it very challenging for people to maintain their employment, livelihood and wellness, resulting in them having to leave the workforce, become unemployed, lose their self-worth and sometimes take their lives — why?”

He says discrimination against peer workers can take on many themes.

“For example, staff are not always trained and supervised for their roles, they’re not always allowed to do what peer workers do, which is share their experience, and sometimes they’re not allowed ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Anti-Discrimination Act.

“Employers have a duty of care to do no harm and to protect a person from risk of injury or illness that are reasonably foreseeable — especially if you know the person lives with a mental illness

“Under the Anti-Discrimination Act, employers are obliged to allow Reasonable Adjustments in the workplace to accommodate for an individual’s mental illness /psychosocial disability. Not allowing this is unlawful.

“Unfortunately, feedback I have received from thousands of lived experience workers has indicated that not all employers are adequately supporting and fulfilling their duty of care to do no harm in the workplace.

“Stigma and related discriminatory attitudes must be addressed as I believe this could be the biggest systemic failure of the modern day health system.

“The rights of people who live with mental health issues are being deliberately denied and unacknowledged in their communities and workplaces.”

Part of the ‘Voices of Lived Experience Panel’ at the Forum, Mr Burge will discuss his long road to mental recovery and his commitment to ensuring the best outcomes for others.

“The panel will collectively reflect the voices of those who have been suicidal, attempted suicide, and/or have been bereaved by suicide, in a session that will bring light and direction to suicide prevention, recovery and resilience,” says Forum Chair, Ms Jacinta Hawgood, AISRAP senior lecturer and clinical psychologist.

“The group will be exploratory and a safe haven for gaining insights into hopeful ways of living..

“We hope that the contributions of our panellists will directly inform and positively impact policy makers, researchers and clinicians in the field of suicide prevention, as well as reach out and bring hope to these audiences and consumers or others with lived experience.”

Best-selling author and founder of the award-winning ‘Emotional Fitness’ program Cynthia Morton will also be talking at the AISRAP event.

Cynthia has personally struggled with inaccurate mental health labels throughout her own lifetime as a recovering alcoholic/addict and survivor of domestic violence and childhood abuse.

“I will share my experiences about my recovery journey based on the healing power of altering self talk. An Emotionally Fit person uses the gentle language of Hearticulation whether they are aware of it or not.

“When we Hearticulate we speak to ourselves and others with respect and gentleness. For many like me it’s a foreign language that takes time and patience to master, but is so worthwhile as it is a sanity saving skill.”


Friday 8 September

World Suicide Prevention Day Forum

Griffith University’s Australian Institute For Suicide Prevention and Research (AISRAP) is hosting the annual regional World Suicide Prevention Day Forum. ‘Take a minute, change a life’ is the theme of the 2017 World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization.


WHEN: 9:00am – 4.15pm



  • Mr Ivan Frkovic, Queensland Mental Health Commissioner
  • Dr Peggy Brown, CEO, National Mental Health Commission
  • Professor Sheena Reilly, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Health), Griffith University
  • Professor David Crompton OAM, Director, Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention
  • Ms Cynthia Morton, Bestselling author, blogger, speaker and founder of the multi-award winning Emotional Fitness Program
  • Mr Michael Burge OAM, Consumer Advocate/Wellness Warrior
  • Mr Jorgen Gullestrup, CEO, Mates in Construction Queensland
  • Ms Jill Fisher, Suicidologist, 2011 winner of International Association for Suicide Prevention Norman Farberow Award
  • Mrs Jacinta Hawgood, Senior Lecturer, Program and Course Convenor for the Graduate Certificate in Suicide Prevention and Master of Suicidology Programs


For further information please visit: https://www.griffith.edu.au/health/australian-institute-suicide-research-prevention/news-events/2017/wspd-2017