SANE Australia says Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System must focus on providing accessible and appropriate care and support to all Victorians living with complex mental health issues, when they need it
Victoria-based national mental health charity, SANE Australia, is calling for the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to focus on providing accessible and appropriate care and support to all Victorians living with complex mental health issues, when they need it.
The mental health charity says many Victorians affected by complex mental health issues – including: schizophrenia, bipolar, personality disorders, eating disorders, PTSD, and severe and enduring mood disorders – have difficulty accessing the support they need, when they need it, due to chronic underinvestment which often delays therapeutic intervention.
There are approximately 800,000 Australians living with severe and complex mental health issues and approximately 25% of those live in Victoria.
In 2017–18, data from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services showed hospitalisations for adults living with mental health issues increased by 6.7%. During the same period, the average duration of hospital stays reduced, resulting in many people experiencing acute psychiatric crisis being discharged prematurely.
SANE Deputy CEO, Dr Michelle Blanchard, says Victorians affected by complex mental health issues experience significant barriers while navigating the mental health system which can significantly impact on their recovery.
“For mental health care to appropriately support people and do no harm, it must be readily accessible and delivered in a way that is appropriate for the people accessing it. For people affected by complex mental health issues, access blockages can mean that the acuity of their presentation increases before they receive adequate support.
“From acute tertiary-based services, to support following a suicide attempt and community-based psychosocial programs – all Victorians deserve access to quality mental health care and support,” says Dr Blanchard.
In its submission, SANE also addressed the need for services to be integrated to achieve the best outcomes for people affected by complex mental health issues, as well as creating inclusive communities to prevent and assist recovery from mental illness.
Dr Blanchard says people affected by complex mental health issues have needs that extend beyond mental health services.
“People living with complex mental health issues experience greater levels of disadvantage than the general population, including poor physical health, poverty, unemployment, loneliness and isolation. Our systems should be designed to meet people’s needs, wrapping around them during times of crisis, rather than requiring them to access support via multiple entry points and retelling their story numerous times,” added Dr Blanchard.
While some progress has been made to promote higher prevalence disorders such as anxiety and depression, Dr Blanchard says other conditions remain poorly understood.
“There has been an increased focus on mental health promotion, primarily for illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Awareness raising and quality education programs about complex mental health issues are currently lacking, but would greatly assist efforts towards prevention, early intervention and the reduction of stigma and discrimination.
“There is more significant work to be done to educate the general public about how best to support their family, friends, neighbours and colleagues living with complex mental health issues,” added Dr Blanchard.
Dr Blanchard is also the Founding Director of SANE’s newest initiative, the Anne Deveson Research Centre, which opened late last year and aims to drive policy changes that will dramatically improve social outcomes for Australians living with complex mental health issues.
The flagship project of the Anne Deveson Research Centre is the development of a National Stigma Report Card which will look to understand the experience of stigma and discrimination by Australians living with complex mental health issues.
In her role as Deputy CEO of SANE Australia and Founding Director of the Anne Deveson Research Centre, Dr Blanchard gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System on Wednesday, 3 July, addressing the structural discrimination and stigma people living with complex mental health issues experience in the workplace.
Dr Chris Groot, Research Lead on the National Stigma Report Card and Lecturer in the Melbourne School of Psychological Science, and Janet Meagher AM, Patron of SANE Australia and the Anne Deveson Research Centre, also gave evidence.
To read SANE’s full written submission to the Royal Commission please visit https://www.sane.org/royalcommission
Dr Blanchard’s witness statement can be read here.
For anyone in crisis, call:
ABOUT SANE AUSTRALIA
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity working to support four million Australians affected by complex mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression and anxiety.
To request an interview with Dr Michelle Blanchard please contact:
Senior Media and PR Advisor at SANE Australia
Phone: 0439 708 381