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Message from the Chair

30 Aug 2016

Welcome to our second update for 2016. Despite entering caretaker mode ahead of the Federal election, we've had a busy start to the second half of the year as the implementation of system-wide reform begins.

We are progressing our work on the National Consensus Statement on Improving the Physical Health and Wellbeing of People Living with Mental Illness and preparing our National Report on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention both due out later this year.  We are also working with the sector supporting reform implementation and developed a guidance document on consumer and carer engagement and participation for primary health networks. With the establishment of our Australian Advisory Group on Suicide Prevention and our role in undertaking a review of self-harm and suicide prevention services for the defence and veterans communities, we will be increasing our focus on suicide prevention.

I am also delighted to announce the appointment of Maureen Lewis as our Executive Director, Strategic Policy and Programs who replaces Sally Goodspeed.  We wish Sally all the best in her retirement and thank her for her contribution to the Commission’s important work.

We look forward to sharing further updates with you as the year progresses. 

Professor Allan Fels AO
Chair, National Mental Health Commission

Review of suicide prevention services for defence force members and veterans

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the Commission will conduct a review of suicide and self-harm prevention services available to Australian Defence Force Personnel members and veterans. The Review will examine the effectiveness of these services in supporting mental wellbeing and preventing self-harm and suicide. It will be supported by an expert panel of current and former members of Defence.

Australian Advisory Group on Suicide Prevention

The Commission’s Australian Advisory Group for Suicide Prevention (AAGSP) held its inaugural meeting on 8 June 2016 and was co-chaired by Commissioner Lucy Brogden and Sharon Jones of Relationships Australia, Tasmania. The AAGSP was formed to provide advice to the Commission on system-wide issues related to suicide prevention and where future effort should be placed.

Issues raised at the Group’s first session included:

  • improving data collection;
  • the need for a national suicide prevention strategy;
  • prioritising high risk and vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those in rural and remote communities and the farming industry, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTIQ communities; and
  • the lack of positive mental health role models for young men transitioning to adulthood.

Project update: Mapping Australia's mental health data

Four publications arising from the Commission's collaboration with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on the 2011 Mental Health Services-Census Integrated Data project are now available:

Cultural and Linguistic Characteristics of People Using Mental Health Services and Prescription Medications, 2011 (Cat. No. 4329.0.00.002)

Housing Circumstances of People Using Mental Health Services and Prescription Medications, 2011(Cat. No. 4329.0.00.002)

Patterns of Use of Mental Health Services and Prescription Medications, 2011 (Cat. No. 4329.0.00.003)

Characteristics of People using Mental Health Services and Prescription Medications, 2011 (Cat. No. 4329.0)

On 17 May 2016, the Commission hosted a joint workshop with the ABS to discuss issues raised in the publications. Representatives from our Mental Health Analytical Advisory Committee, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Mental Health & Palliative Care Unit), Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment), National Health Performance Authority (Hospitals and Healthy Communities Reports) and Bureau of Health Information (System and Thematic Report) attended.

Insights from representatives’ experiences and views on mental health data linkage work will be used to guide future analytical work led by the Commission in collaboration with the ABS.

2016 National Suicide Prevention Conference

The Commission supported the attendance of people with a lived experience of suicide to present and participate at the recent 2016 National Suicide Prevention Conference through Suicide Prevention Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project.  The funding helped overcome some of the barriers that may prevent those with lived experience of suicide from attending the conference.  This important program helps ensure there is representation of those with lived experience in discussions and activities about suicide prevention.

This year's conference theme was 'Connecting Culture Context and Capabilities'. More than 400 delegates exchanged ideas and learnt about what others are doing to prevent suicide in our communities, including bursary recipients Veronique Moseley, Ross Beckley and Alannah McGregor.

"Without the bursary, we would not have been able to present the development of our work with emergency services responders and their families to others in the suicide prevention sector, nor make vital connections with those working towards similar goals.  More significantly, the bursary allows those with lived experience to contribute to, and feel included as a valued part of changes within the sector."  (Ross Beckley)

"Thank you for the bursary and opportunity to present my lived experience story to the conference." (Alannah McGregor)

Commissioner news

Jackie Crowe honoured with LiFE award

Commissioner Jackie Crowe, a long-time champion for the rights of people with lived experience, was recently recognised for her outstanding contribution to the community when she was presented with the 2016 Leadership LiFE Award for Excellence in Suicide Prevention at the 2016 National Suicide Prevention Conference dinner on 26 July 2016.

The award recognises point in time leadership that is above and beyond day-to-day operations on suicide prevention initiatives.

Image: Commissioner Crowe with her award with Minister for Health Sussan Ley and the Chair of the National Coalition on Suicide Prevention, Matthew Tukaki.

Kay Patterson moves to a new role with the Human Rights Commission

The Hon Dr Kay Patterson resigned her position as a Commissioner in June 2016, following her appointment by the Attorney General as Age Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Kay joined the National Mental Health Commission in 2014 and during her tenure made an invaluable contribution as a Commissioner. The Commission congratulates Kay on this prestigious and important appointment and we wish her all the best for her new role.

Commission funds evaluation of peer support forums for people with lived experience and their carers

The Commission has funded a project evaluating the effectiveness of online forums as a peer support mechanism for people with lived experience as well as their families and carers. The funds have supported the development and promotion of the SANE online forums as a space for people to connect, share experiences and offer their support to others facing challenges similar to their own.

With recent Commission reports indicating regional and rural areas aren’t getting full access to the care and support they need, evaluating the effectiveness of remote and digital support systems is an important step to ensure all Australians have access to effective care and support systems.

The outcomes of the evaluation will provide valuable additional evidence about the support provided by online forums for people with mental illness.

Australian Census 2016

There is still time to complete the 2016 Australian Census online. Visit www.census.abs.gov.au today for further information.