Social Change Projects

Graham Panther has led the development of a number social change projects, with a focus on helping to better connect our fragmented communities. The theme of Graham’s social change work is peer support – finding new and better ways for people to share what they’ve learned from their own tough times, and feel a little less alone in their brains.

Select projects

The Big Feels Club – a unique, art-based approach to mental health. Graham developed this global peer support network in partnership with co-founder Honor Eastly, a multidisciplinary artist (and creator of the Starving Artist podcast), The Big Feels Club uses art, writing, music, and podcasting to spark more connecting conversations about the messy stuff of being human. The first experiment, the ‘Big Feels Book Club’, has been run by volunteers in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, creating spaces for people to explore their big, scary feelings, and feel a little less alone in the process. This initiative saw over 1000 signups in the first week of operation, with club members joining from all over Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. Read more about why Graham set up this project here.

The Mind Recovery College – Graham was one of two leads on the establishment of Australia’s first Recovery College, with Mind Australia. The college is a ground-breaking new model of service delivery, now delivering over 200 courses per year across 8 campuses in Victoria and South Australia. The college is built on the principles of ‘co-production’, in which people who have used mental health services partner with other professionals to deliver mental health education. This model is part of a substantial shift in Australia’s mental health sector toward a genuinely recovery-oriented system. It has also played a part in redefining the notion of ‘mental health expertise’ to include the rich knowledge we gain from experiencing hard times.

Peer Support

Graham began his career in mental health as part of New Zealand’s first Peer Support team to operate under a mainstream community mental health contract. Much of his service development work has focused on Peer Support, and other initiatives designed to help communities to help themselves.

The success of Peer Support within mental health and addictions stems from two simple truths: a problem shared is a problem halved, and it’s often easier to share a problem with someone who’s been through something similar. Peer Support has emerged as an efficient and effective addition to traditional mental health services (see for example King, 2011; Repper & Carter, 2011; Davidson, Bellamy et al, 2012).

In addition to the Mind Recovery College and the Big Feels Club, Graham has played a key role in embedding formal peer support in the health system in Australia and New Zealand, including:

  • Consulting to Primary Health Networks on embedding peer support within general practice
  • Evaluating and providing input into design of peer support services – at both an individual program and broader system level.

For a public example of Graham’s work on the nature of embedding peer services in a traditional health system, click here.

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