The select committee for mental health and suicide prevention has used its interim report to call on government to provide it with the National Suicide Prevention Adviser (NSPA)’s final report to avoid the risk of doubling-up on work in its inquiry.
The House Select Committee on mental health and suicide prevention was established to address the exacerbating circumstances of COVID-19 and recent bushfires on Australia’s strained mental health system.
In its interim report published on Friday, the committee noted that key documents for undertaking the inquiry have as yet not been made available to the group.
“The committee initially focused on the Productivity Commission and Victorian Royal Commission reports as the final versions of the report of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser and the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy (final report expected in June) are yet to be released,” the interim report read.
To properly do its work, the group is asking the government to hand over a final report prepared by NSPA Christine Morgan. Without that document, the select committee says that it is difficult to know what areas it should focus its particular attention to which have not already been addressed by the NSPA.
“The committee sees the timely release of the report as important to ensure that all relevant work is available for the committee’s consideration and minimise the potential for duplication, including through this inquiry,” the committee said.
“On receipt, the committee will review the report with a particular interest in recommendations on data collection, prevention, assessment as well as follow-up on discharge and aftercare.”
Ms Morgan is the first person to be appointed to the position of NSPA, which reports to the prime minister on nationwide action of the government’s ‘towards zero’ suicides goal. Her initial report was submitted to the government in August 2020 and has been published.
The final report was given to prime minister Scott Morrison in December last year and still has not been shared with the select committee whose work commenced in February.
In the absence of the NSPA’s full report, the department of health advised the committee that the substance of Ms Morgan’s report to the PM prioritised ‘community-led and person-centred solutions to ensure suicide prevention services reach Australians who need them and communities are supported.’
Inquiring into the findings of the NSPA final report is actually part of the select committee’s terms of reference. This also includes the findings of the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Mental Health, the Victorian Royal Commission, the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy and other recent strategic reviews of the mental health system in light of events such as the 2019 bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.
Committee chair and MP Dr Fiona Martin issued a statement saying there were some areas that required further examination as the inquiry progressed.
“These areas include the divide between public and private mental healthcare, coordination and funding of mental health services, affordability, the growth of telehealth and digital services in response to COVID-19, and the role of professional bodies in advocating for, regulating and supporting the workforce,” Dr Martin said.
The first public hearing for the committee’s mental health inquiry was held in Canberra last month. It heard from the Productivity Commission, department of health and the National Mental Health Commission.
Dates for future hearings will be published on the inquiry website.
The inquiry’s final report is due by November 2021.