If you or a loved one have experienced mental health issues, particularly if you live in rural and regional Victoria, you'll know how hard it can be to access the support you need when and where you need it, despite the best efforts of services.
You'll know how often you have to repeat your story, how often you might fall through the gaps in support, how far you'll have to go to access support and how too often the pieces of the system just don't fit together.
But something extraordinary is happening right now in Victoria. Through the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, the 'pieces' of the system are coming together - talking to each other, to the politicians, and to the public.
This month, the Royal Commission has begun its public hearings and is providing a very powerful platform for those with experiences of mental illness and those who are providing services and support.
On Monday, the Royal Commission will make its way to rural and regional Victoria, holding a day of public hearings in Maryborough in the Shire of Central Goldfields.
The Maryborough hearings come on top of earlier rural and regional consultations when the Royal Commission visited more than 20 locations across the state and heard from more than 1600 people about many of the specific issues that rural communities face in accessing mental health services and supports.
No doubt they heard many stories that echo the powerful testimony given earlier this month by AFL champion Wayne Schwass, who was the first to appear in Melbourne. He talked about the day in 1996 that he described as "my sporting Mount Everest", when North Melbourne took the AFL flag.
It was a day of triumph to be part of the premiership team, but he said only two people in the massive crowds watching that day at the MCG and on screens across the nation - his wife and his doctor - knew the battle he was engaged in, with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
"The premiership player smiling with a premiership medal around his neck was broken. He was spiritually lost, emotionally bankrupt and tired," Schwass told the commission.
His testimony held a number of powerful messages that I know have resonated across Victoria, particularly about stigma and discrimination, and also about masculinity - about how hard it is for many men to admit to pain and stress, for fear of being judged or of being a burden.
Equally as powerful and disturbing was the evidence given in that first week of hearings by a young woman who grew up in country Victoria. She told the commission she had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Along with the distress she experienced from her illness was the challenge of navigating a mental health care system that was too often missing in action.
For her, the closest headspace centre was a 45-minute drive away, with no public transport, and only open between 9am and 5pm. So she and her mum had to take off at least half a day a fortnight from school and work just to get to those appointments.
As her mental health worsened, she ended up spending nearly three months in a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne, including her 17th birthday.
She was two hours away from family and friends, who could only visit on weekends because of school and work. She felt incredibly isolated and told the Royal Commission:
"Access should also be improved for rural and regional communities, especially people within these communities with complex needs. Like me, some people may be forced to go to Melbourne and leave their support network to get help. This was a very isolating experience for me and I believe it impacted upon my recovery."
She also made another powerful point, saying there is a narrative in mental health that is meant to reassure, to encourage reaching out. "Don't be afraid to ask for help", it urges. The problem is, she said, "when you ask, there doesn't appear to be any answer. It's so heartbreaking when you finally work up the courage to voice the horrible things that you're experiencing, but there's nothing there to help you."
Our dream is that this Royal Commission will find the way to offer that help when and where it is needed in Victoria. It is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to hear what many in our midst experience, for the pieces of the system to get together, and for governments to say now is the time to act.
Royal Commission hearings are open to the public and are being streamed live on the Commission's website, except in particularly sensitive circumstances, via bit.ly/2LiRKeG
You can also access transcripts of the public hearings and witness statements.
For support for your mental health, you can speak 24 hours a day with Lifeline on 13 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Angus Clelland is chief executive of Mental Health Victoria.