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The consumer and carer perspective

Executive Summary

Reporting on the progress of implementing the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (Fifth Plan) is essential in order to know if the commitments are being honoured and are making a difference. To this end, the National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) has been tasked with providing an annual report on the progress of implementing the Fifth Plan actions, and Australia’s performance against a set of identified indicators.

The Commission has opted to extend its Fifth Plan reporting to include an annual survey of mental health consumer and carer perspectives (Consumer and Carer Survey), that aims to measure if consumers and carers are experiencing the improvements and benefits outlined in the ‘what will be different for consumers and carers’ section of the eight Fifth Plan priority areas.

This report summarises the results from the second Consumer and Carer Survey, which captures experiences of the mental health system during March 2019 to March 2020. Where possible, comparisons will be made with the results of the 2019 Consumer and Carer Survey.

The results from the 2020 survey suggest that:

    • • The intended benefits of improving integrated regional planning and service delivery have not yet been realised for a significant proportion of consumers and carers.

    • • services available to those at risk of suicide, but fewer people are aware of active follow-up care forn people who had attempted suicide or services that are available for carers, families and communities affected by suicide.

    • • Access to the clinical and non-clinical community based services required to live a contributing life has not yet been achieved for many consumersmwith severe and complex mental illness.

    • • The coordination of physical and mental health care continues to be limited.

    • • Experiencing stigma and discrimination remains common for people with mental illness, both in healthcare settings and in the broader community.

    • • While mental health services are a safe place for the majority of people, a significant proportion of respondents do not consistently feel safe using these services.

    • • Most consumers and carers have not observed improvements in mental health services and have not been invited to contribute to service improvement.

Overall, the Consumer and Carer Survey does not provide any evidence that the Fifth Plan has progressed in achieving its intended outcomes for consumers and carers between 2019 and 2020. However, any improvements in consumer and carer experiences resulting from the Fifth Plan are likely to be incremental and the known limitations of the Consumer and Carer Survey may be obscuring small changes in the experiences of consumers and carers.

This highlights the importance of including high quality data on the perspectives of consumers and carers in the formal evaluation of the Fifth Plan (occurring under action vi of the Fifth Plan). Quality data will ensure that any small improvements are measured and that learnings from the Fifth Plan about what creates improvements for consumers and carers can be applied to future reforms.