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A message from our Chair

09 Aug 2017

Welcome to our August 2017 update. There have been some major developments for the Commission since our last e-newsletter.

Following my decision to step down as Chair in February 2018, the Coalition Government has announced my replacement will be eminent businesswoman and psychologist Lucy Brogden.

The Government also fulfilled its election commitment to strengthen the Commission and provided us with an additional $2 million funding this financial year.

There will also be additional members on the advisory board to provide broad expertise and experience from across our health system.

Commission Meeting

In July, we held our Commission meeting in Adelaide and welcomed engagement and discussion on mental health and suicide prevention, research and housing and homelessness in South Australia. We also heard the experiences of consumers, carers and service providers at the Community Forum.

We hope you enjoy reading this e-newsletter and welcome your involvement in our Engage and Participate in Mental Health consultation and encourage you to pledge your support and sign-up to implement the Equally Well Consensus Statement best practice principles.

Professor Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

Strengthening the Commission

This month, Health Minister Greg Hunt MP personally welcomed distinguished businesswomen and psychologist Lucy Brogden as our next Chair from February 2018. Up until then, Mrs Brogden will work as Co-Chair of the advisory board alongside current Chair, Professor Allan Fels AO until he steps down from the role.

The Minister praised Professor Fels for his unwavering commitment to mental health and suicide prevention.

Minister Hunt also extended his thanks to the outgoing advisory board members – the Hon Rob Knowles AO, Professor Pat Dudgeon and Ms Nicole Gibson – for their insights, passion and hard work in advising Government and helping to elevate the importance of this important issue.

Dr Peggy Brown, our CEO, has been appointed a Commissioner, along with the following new appointees:

• Professor Harvey Whiteford AM
• Professor Ngiare Brown
• Professor Wendy Cross
• Professor Helen Milroy
• Mr Samuel Hockey

Current members Professor Allan Fels AO, Professor Ian Hickie  AM and Ms Jackie Crowe have been reappointed.

The Commission announces key Fifth Plan role

The Commission has welcomed its new responsibility to monitor and report on the implementation of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

The responsibility was given to the Commission by the COAG Health Council.

The Commission supports the Fifth Plan’s eight key priority areas and is keen to see progress in the implementation of actions under each area delivering results as soon as possible.

Our new role aligns with our core goal, promoting accountability to achieve the best possible mental health and suicide prevention system for the Australian people.

Cross-sectoral collaboration is vital to ensure the Fifth Plan’s mental health reforms are integrated successfully.

The Commission eagerly anticipates the cooperation between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, public and private sector, and community-managed organisations, along with consumers and carers in response to the Fifth Plan.  The Commission will provide independent and forthright advice to the Health Ministers on their performance.

The Commission seeks to ensure consumers and carers play a pivotal role in the co-design of policy and service provision.  The Commission is committed to the development of a guide to inform and enhance consumer and carer engagement and participation.

The Commission will also participate in the development of a mental health research strategy in collaboration with key stakeholders.

As the Fifth Plan outlines, ‘a strategic approach to research is necessary to ensure better treatment options are available in the future and the best outcomes are achieved from care’.

Call for equality in health care for people with mental illness

In July, Professor Allan Fels AO launched Equally Well - the National Consensus Statement on improving the physical health and wellbeing of people living with mental illness.

People with a mental illness have poorer physical health outcomes than those without mental health issues – particularly those with a chronic mental health condition.

On average, people with a serious mental illness die younger – between 14 and 23 years earlier – than the general population and the gap has widened over the past three decades.

The Commission wants to ensure that people with a mental illness enjoy the same life expectancy as others.

At the launch of Equally Well, the Commission called on the mental health sector to pledge their support and commitment to the Equally Well best practice principles.

To find out more about the Equally Well Consensus Statement and/or sign-up to support it, visit the Equally Well website and view their consensus statement.

The Government’s response to the Commission’s Final ADF Report and Recommendations

On 11 August 2016, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel and the then Minister for Health and Aged Care announced a Review of the services available to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in relation to the prevention of self-harm and suicide (the Review).

The Review focused on the type and efficacy of the self-harm and suicide prevention services that are available, and looked at prevalence rates and potential barriers to access of services.

The Review was undertaken by us and our Final Report was presented to Government on 28 March 2017.

The Commission’s Final Report.

The Government's response

The Government considered the Commission's Final Report and recommendations and released its response. This response outlines work already underway within the Department of Defence, Veterans' Affairs and Health and sets out the Australian Government's commitment to continue to improve the support available to current and ex-serving ADF members and their families.

The Government's response was released on 30 June 2017.

The Government's final response is available on the DVA website.

The Commission acts on seclusion and restraint

In May, we called for all mental health services to increase their effort towards eliminating the use of seclusion and restraint.

We advocate for everyone in a mental health service to have the right to receive safe and contemporary care and to be treated with dignity and respect.

A guiding principle underpinning safe and contemporary care of individuals with a mental illness is respect for human rights.

We recommend the universal adoption of strategies and training guidelines which support the goal of eliminating seclusion and mechanical  and physical restraint in mental health services.

The Commission produced the A case for change: Position Paper on seclusion, restraint and restrictive practice in mental health services and supports the newly released National Principles to Support the Goal of Eliminating Mechanical and Physical Restraint in Mental Health Services.

Australia’s mental health sector is undergoing significant reform and the use of best practice standards and guidelines need to be adopted.

The Commission supports a national approach to the regulation of seclusion and restraint with nationally consistent standards and guidelines. 

There needs to be jurisdictional agreement on definitions for seclusion, physical restraint, mechanical restraint and chemical restraint that is reflected in jurisdictional legislation.

We also require a national approach to monitoring and reporting on seclusion and restraint across jurisdictions and services.

Mental health sector news

Mentally healthy workplaces

We congratulate the efforts of WorkCover Queensland for their collaboration with SuperFriend Mental Health Promotion Foundation to improve corporate advocacy for mentally healthy workplaces.

The Leading Well Queensland Collaboration will engage with senior business and industry leaders through various leadership forums and events showcasing organisations which are building mentally health workplaces and reducing the risk of psychological injury. 

Their initiative aligns with the Commission's Mentally Health Workplace Alliance which aims to make sure all people in the workplace, including those who experience mental health difficulties, their families and those who care for them, are supported.

Clinicians: Recruitment call for national mental health project

The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) is seeking to recruit clinicians to lead and influence a national mental health project that is clinically relevant, meaningful and purposeful.

The project provides a rare opportunity to influence a national piece of work that is part of a ground breaking national mental health care classification.  Successful candidates will use their existing networks and develop new relationships to drive clinical input.

How to apply

To learn more about this role and how to apply, visit the IHPA website.