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Giant steps towards building the mental wealth of the nation

26 November 2015

The National Mental Health Commission today welcomed the Federal Government's announcement on mental health reform as "a major step forward in enabling people to lead more contributing lives and for Australia to grow thriving communities."

"The Government's response represents a ringing endorsement of the strategic directions outlined in the Commission's National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services – Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities,” Commission Chair, Professor Allan Fels, said today.

This reform package recognises that change is needed to create a high-performing system that supports the wellbeing of the Australian population and through that to build the mental wealth of Australia. In the Review, the Commission outlined how changing the system can better meet people’s needs in a more efficient and effective way, and at the same time improve productivity and promote economic growth.

"These reforms have far-reaching potential to improve the lives of millions of Australians," Prof Fels said.

"The focus now must be on effective and efficient implementation, as well as on change management, to ensure the community reaps the full benefits of the reform package. It is critical that implementation actively engages key stakeholder groups across the mental health sector, and places individuals, families, carers and other support people at the centre.

"It also is critical to recognise that mental health and wellbeing is much broader than the health system and that to be fully successful we must adopt a whole of government, whole of person, whole of life approach. This was recognised in the Commission's Review and drew from the Contributing Life framework.

"If we enable people to live contributing lives – to relate to others, stable housing and maximise participation in education, employment and community more broadly – we will help build economically and socially thriving communities, and a more productive Australia."

Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities was developed through an extensive consultation process and took account of more than 2,000 submissions. It included a range of recommendations which are reflected in the nine interconnected areas of reform described in the government’s response:

  • Locally planned and commissioned mental health services through Primary Health Networks, and an associated flexible funding pool
  • A digital mental health gateway
  • Refocusing primary mental health care programmes and services to support a stepped care model
  • Joined up support for child mental health
  • An integrated and equitable approach to youth mental health
  • Integrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services
  • A renewed approach to suicide prevention
  • Improving services and coordination of care for people with severe and complex mental illness
  • National leadership

"We applaud the Government's agreement on the need to shift the focus from downstream to upstream services – from income support and crisis responses, to preventing illness, keeping people well, supporting recovery and providing stable housing and participation in employment, education and training.

"We also applaud the shift to a regional approach which engages stakeholders locally and the integration of mental health into primary health care as very profound and fundamental reforms.

"Our Review shows that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a system that will significantly reduce the social and economic impact of mental illness and improve outcomes for individuals and the community.

"We welcome the Government’s commitment and recognition to what our Review showed are achievable and desirable reforms, and look forward to working with Government and other stakeholders on implementing changes which will benefit individuals, families, communities and our entire society."

 

Read the Government's response here.

Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities is available here.

"Even the most disadvantaged Australians should be able to lead a 'contributing life,' whatever that means for them and this simple goal will be our touchstone and yardstick."

Chair Prof Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

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