Trauma-Informed Guidelines

[Resolutions Officer 1]: The Mental Health Complaints Commissioner, in partnership with the Bouverie Centre has developed Trauma-Informed Guidelines to support people impacted by trauma to issue a complaint in a safe and supported way.

We’d like to share with you some background on this project, and the outcomes we hope it will help to deliver.

It is unfortunately common for people who access mental health services to have experienced trauma.

We know that if a person making a complaint about a mental health service has experienced trauma – this may impact their experience of the complaint process.

These guidelines were developed to help us adopt a trauma-informed approach to addressing complaints made about mental health services – an area where research and practice is lacking.

The intention of the project was to create a set of principles that would assist MHCC resolution officers and mental health service providers to consider the impacts of trauma and to take active steps to avoid re-traumatisation when supporting a person making a complaint about public mental health services in Victoria.

The MHCC partnered with The Bouverie Centre to co-design and carry out the research project – with a firm commitment to uphold the MHCC’s philosophy of honouring and respecting the voice, expertise, and wisdom of people with lived experience of distress or trauma.

The guidelines were developed through a co-production process which engaged with members of the MHCC’s advisory council, MHCC lived and living experience advisors, MHCC complaints resolution and investigation officers, and public mental health service providers across Victoria.

Throughout the development of these guidelines, we learned that persons who make complaints about mental health services want to be heard, believed, understood, and supported.

The findings of this research were then translated to form the foundation of a new set of trauma-informed practice guidelines for the MHCC and Mental Health Services.

[Resolutions Officer 2]: Our Trauma Informed Guidelines will be embedded into our work at the MHCC and shared with other Mental Health services to adopt these guidelines in their own complaint handling processes.

There are 15 guidelines in total – and each guideline is accompanied by a set of practice tips; stepping out ways in which staff involved in receiving and resolving complaints can action each principle in their day-to-day work.

These guidelines enhance our ability and that of Mental Health service staff  to consider the impacts of trauma when receiving complaints, but they also walk through some active measures that we can take to avoid re-traumatisation.

They do not attempt to offer a one size fits all approach, but they can be used to provide direction on being trauma informed in every interaction with a person making a complaint.

The coproduction of these guidelines with people with lived and living experience strengthens the MHCC’s ability to ensure consumer and family stories contribute to building an improved mental health and complaint system, now and into the future.

These trauma-informed guidelines were developed to improve the experiences and outcomes of people making complaints. While primarily focused on the complaints process, we hope that the guidelines can be helpful in many areas of work with people with lived and living experience of trauma, mental illness, or psychological distress.