What is Just Listening Community ? Ideas, influences and resources for a community led alternative.

Updated: Jul 17

Just Listening Community (JLC) offers a community led alternative to other community members in distress, crisis and suicide experiences. JLC operates outside of the mental health system and services. The service is facilitated by volunteers who have completed the six-week Just Listening training program and overseen by Humane Clinic practitioners.

JLC is one of the many alternatives that are needed in our communities to move away from the diagnostic led mental health services that over medicalise human distress. Over time the Just Listening Community is intended to develop into a model that can be adapted and facilitated in any community.

The following blog provides some context as to the influences behind the Just Listening Community approach and narrative of how the project came to fruition. Just Listening Community approach builds on the knowledge and wisdom that already exists in community that is often overlooked and discarded due to the the imbalance in power of choice and access for any individual in our community who wishes to reach out for support in crisis, distress or suicidal experiences. Due to over influence of psychiatry, professionals, so called evidence based practice and administrations/governments over seeing mental health services, we are asleep to the enormous potential for a person in community to reach out for support to other community members and for community members to reach in to offer support to others.

Just Listening Community is seeking to demonstrate that as a community we need to ReAwaken to the commonality of human experiences in trauma, addition and mental health and each of our experiences of being. In our community we can offer connection, compassion and meaningful action.

Just Listening Community and Humane Clinic acknowledge that Just Listening is not a new concept and has been practiced by first people all over the world for many thousands of years: listening to all that is our existence.

The Just Listening Community - A community based model aims to reduce the number of mental health related presentations to hospital emergency departments. The model builds the capacity of communities to support each other by offering human-to-human connection while resisting the urge to fix or provide solutions, removing the unequal power dynamic often present between a person seeking support and the person providing it.

The JLC is a project conceived and directed by Humane Clinic founder Matt Ball and led by Matt Ball, Rory Ritchie and Berny Maywald with contributions to from many others along the way. The Just Listening Community services is delivered by incredible community volunteers.

The project has been developed without any external financial support (funded by Humane Clinic) and ran for the first 2 months only with the funding of Humane Clinic. We are delighted to announce the Fay Fuller Foundation have now committed to philanthropic donation for 3 years to support a portion of the required funding.

We are also extremely grateful the the Hackham Sports and Social Club for the contribution in funding furniture to create a wonderful feel in the environment.

Just Listening Community has also raised money through a Gofundme campaign in partnership with Community Health Onkaparinga as a charity partner.

Community responses to distress and crisis outside of mental health systems.

The need for alternatives to bring community together into connection is well known. For many years alternatives have been available in different places all over the world. An early influence behind the idea of the Just Listening Community was experiences of accessing the Samaritans in the UK:

In the UK the Samaritans offer an amazing services delivered by volunteers outside of the mental health system via phone or online - for people in suicide and distress: 'Whatever you're going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. We're here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year'

Many models that are developed ultimately lead back to 'referrals' back to the mental health system. Samaritans UK is one of the models that does not seek to send people into the mental health services but places value on being there for a person in crisis.

There is Samaritans services available in Australia as well:

Community led alternatives are important for the whole community to share stories of pain and harm and of connection and healing. For too long mental health systems have taken away the potential for community to support one another through misplaced notions of the 'knowing' of risks, medicalisation of distress and a rampant diagnostic ideology.

Community responses can be about empowering all people in our community in all the different options that can be offered.

A moment of change - Healing Voices movie - Christies Beach - A World Premier 2016

In 2016, a town hall world premiere saw the release of Healing Voices movie.

The film invited us to think about 'What are we talking about when we talk about "mental illness".

Produced by PJ Moynihan (Digitial Eyes Films ) and Oryx Cohen ( National Empowerment ) this ground breaking movie was a catalyst for change in many communities. It would be a major catalyst in Christes Beach.

Around 150 people people turned up to a small hall in Chrisites Beach SA to watch the movie and have a community conversation. Just Listening is just one of the many outcome that emerged out of that night.

One of the collaborators who hosted the movie that night said, as we packed up from the movie screening, 'we need a place like that here'... and so it was to be. As the movie reminds us, in the words of Cesar Chavez -

'Once social change begins, its cannot be revered” is that when the world makes its change it cannot go back. You just have to live life and move on. Once you learn you cant forget. It means that you can not change a person once they succeed in something.'

What followed the first screening of the Healing Voices movie was development of the Many Voices Collective and trips to WOMAD, a Healing Voices Festival and many community conversations based on the Healing Voices Movie in Adelaide, NSW, WA and NZ as we found the desire for alternatives was strong in many communities.

Many Voices Collective were generously supported by Community Health Onkaparinga an amazing charity in the local community who would go onto become partners in the Just Listening Community.

In 2016 the narrative changed!

Then the Many Voices Community - more conversations.

Inspired by the Healing Voices Movie, The Many Voices Festival came to life! You can read a piece here

World Hearing Voices day (14th September) 2016. The Many Voices Collective were donated the Hopgood theatre by Country Arts SA and many people from the community came along.

Healing Voices was screen twice that day. The Voices of Tali presented on stage thanks to the incredible