The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System handed down its Interim Report on 28 November 2019, highlighting the need for fundamental reforms to better support people affected by mental health issues.
SANE Australia shares the Commissioners’ view that the current crisis-driven mental health system is a result of continual poor investment decisions driven, ultimately, by stigma and discrimination. This has led to enormous inequality and in turn, has led to barriers to access with treatment often dependent upon socioeconomic status and geography.
It is deeply moving to see these systemic failures acknowledged in this way.
SANE Australia welcomes the Interim Report as the culmination of more than 8,200 contributions outlining the changes that need to happen in Victoria’s mental health system, to better meet community needs and expectations. We are heartened to see that the Commissioners have listened to and really heard the stories from people with lived experience of mental health issues, their families and friends.
In July 2019, we lodged a submission to the Royal Commission detailing 72 recommendations, and provided evidence on the impact of stigma and discrimination for people affected by complex mental health issues. We are pleased to see many of the issues raised in our submission are included in the Commission’s Interim Report.
An overarching theme is the acknowledgement that stigma and discrimination underpin the deficiencies in design and resourcing of the system, and acts as a barrier for people to receive appropriate care.
The Interim Report has highlighted that chronic under-investment has resulted in a system that is crisis-driven with demand far exceeding capacity. The report also speaks to structural inequity including access barriers according to socioeconomic status and geography, as well frequent inappropriate entry to the system through emergency departments and police.
Powerfully, the Commissioners also acknowledged that while not all suicides occur amongst people with a mental illness, suicide represents the ultimate failure of the mental health system.
The Interim Report has highlighted the scale of the problem and urgency for wide-ranging reform across the system identifying a number of priorities for immediate action.
In particular, SANE Australia welcomes the early recommendations to:
- create a Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing to bring together expertise in lived experience, research and clinical and non-clinical care
- expand the role of lived experience in service delivery through establishment of Victoria’s first residential mental health service designed and delivered by people with people affected by mental illness, as well as increasing consumer and family-carer workforces.
To ensure that all Victorians affected by complex mental health issues can experience a better mental health system in the future, SANE Australia would like the Royal Commission to consider the interoperability with other related systems such as education, housing, justice and employment. It is also important that the Commission consider opportunities to share learnings with other jurisdictions so that all Australians may benefit from the proposed reforms. Further consideration is required as to how these reforms are experienced across the lifespan, including for older adults.
SANE Australia looks forward to the opportunity to provide further input into this important process to ensure it meets the needs of all Victorians affected by complex mental health issues.