The mental health system in Australia is undergoing significant change. Reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (Fifth Plan), Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and activities in suicide prevention are all occurring simultaneously. These reforms are ambitious in their scope. They are also interrelated which adds to the complexity of their implementation, and it will take time before their implementation leads to sustained change for consumers and carers.
The combined efforts of all governments and the commitment to deliver these reforms have been critical to their progress. Although there is still a way to go, the changes being continually made under these reforms have started to lead to improvements in the way mental health services are planned and delivered.
The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) commenced its Connections tour in July 2019 to consult and engage with communities across Australia on the 2030 Vision for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. The Connections tour provided an opportunity to hear directly from consumers, carers, families, and organisations that provide support and care, about their experience of the current mental health system.
The performance of the mental health system is also being closely examined through numerous inquiries. These include the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the social and economic benefits of improving mental health. The NMHC particularly welcomes the broad scope of the Productivity Commission inquiry and its inclusion ofthe social determinants of mental health.
These inquiries are valuable for identifying and understanding deficiencies in the mental health system. They also provide a unique opportunity for action, and it is critical that governments use the recommendations of these inquiries as the basisfor system improvements.
The current focus on mental health and suicide prevention in Australia marks a significant turning point in our history. There is an increased awareness of the impacts of mental health and suicide – not only from a health and wellbeing perspective, but also from a social and economic one. There is also a sense of urgency to improve mental health and reduce suicide.
However, solutions that improve mental health and prevent suicide are never simple. Implementing reforms requires significant investment of time and money. To achieve real change we need real commitment to integrate services and increase accessibility, make more data available for effective service planning and measuring improved outcomes for consumers and carers, reduced stigma and discrimination, and improved mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This report is the result of this monitoring over the past 12 months. It presents a snapshot of some of the issues faced by the mental health system as a whole, as well as the current progress of reforms in mental health and suicide prevention.
The report also identifies the need for improvements in specific areas and makes recommendations on how governments can begin to address these issues. These recommendations attempt to address systemic issues in mental health and suicide prevention – they do not focus on gaps between, or within, mental health and suicide prevention services.