Victoria commits to establishing Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday March 2, 2021

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media following the announcement of the royal commission into Victoria's mental health system
Daniel Andrews speaks to the media about the royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system. (AAP Image/Luis Ascui)

The Victorian government has accepted all of the mental health royal commission’s recommendations, including for the establishment of an independent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The royal commission’s 3195-page final report, released on Tuesday, identified more than 30 key findings across several major themes. Among them, the commission found that the system is driven by crisis, demand has overtaken capacity, and the views of people with lived experience of mental illness are overlooked.

“There are limited opportunities for people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological distress to truly lead, participate in and promote change, and the mental health system falls behind other social sectors in this regard,” the report said.

Further, young people are adversely affected, there is a “substantial” service gap for older people, culturally safe services aren’t always available to Aboriginal communities, and the experience of poor mental health is different in rural and regional areas.

The report noted that there were 718 deaths by suicide in Victoria in 2019, with suicide impacting some groups in the community more than others. This included men, people living in rural and regional areas, Aboriginal people, and LGBTIQ+ people.

Stigma and discrimination continue to be “ever present”, the commission found.

“Discrimination is widespread and presents in many ways, such as difficulties accessing health care or being unsupported in the workplace, leaving people socially and economically excluded from society,” it said.

Read more: Victoria’s mental health system to receive $60m to tackle increased demand

The report has offered 65 new recommendations, in addition to the nine outlined in the interim report.

The recommendations focus on “transformational reform”, and can be grouped in four key features for a future system: a responsive and integrated system with community at its heart; a system attuned to promoting inclusion and addressing inequities; re-established confidence through prioritisation and collaboration; and contemporary and adaptable services.

In one of its major recommendations, the commission has called for the establishment of an independent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, to:

  • Hold government to account for the performance and quality and safety of the mental health and wellbeing system,
  • Support people living with mental illness or psychological distress, families, carers and supporters to lead and partner in the improvement of the system,
  • Monitor the Victorian government’s progress in implementing the royal commission’s recommendations,
  • Address stigma related to mental health.

The government should also set up a Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion Office, a Suicide Prevention and Response Office, legislated Regional Mental Health and Wellbeing Boards, a Statewide Trauma Service, and a new non-government agency led by people with lived experience of mental illness or psychological distress.

To support good mental health and wellbeing in local communities, the commission has also recommended the state government establish and recurrently resource ‘community collectives’ for mental health and wellbeing in each local government area.

Premier Daniel Andrews said his government recognises the “profound failures” outlined in the report, and has committed to implementing all 74 of the commission’s recommendations.

“Mental health impacts all of us … And yet the truth is, that suffering just isn’t being taken seriously enough,” Andrews said in a statement on Tuesday.

“People are either ‘not sick enough’ for help, or ‘too sick’ to treat outside a hospital. These big gaps in the system mean that people are falling between the cracks.”

Andrews said the recommendations would serve as a blueprint for delivering “the biggest social reform in a generation”.

Read more: Mental health services: Victoria ‘lags significantly’ behind other states


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