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Message from the Chair

16 May 2017

Welcome to our first update for 2017.

This year has been busy and successful for the National Mental Health Commission (the Commission).

In March, we provided the Australian Government with our final report and recommendations on the review of services available to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in relation to the prevention of self harm and suicide. Our report led to a Federal Budget funding boost of $350 million towards the prevention of self-harm and suicide in the ADF.

We are also pleased to announce we have released our 2016 Report on the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, a link to which can be found in this newsletter.

So far in 2017, we have travelled to Canberra  where we met with multiple stakeholders regarding the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and following this meeting we advised the Government and outlined issues and concerns expressed.

Recently, we also travelled all over Australia to hear from people about their experiences with housing and homelessness as they relate to mental health.

Later this month, we will travel to Darwin to hear about the mental health concerns of people living in rural and remote areas, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

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

Professor Allan Fels AO
Chair, National Mental Health Commission

2016 Report

The Commission has released its 2016 National Report on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. 

In the 2016 Report, we consider the factors that will lay the foundations for the Commission’s future monitoring and reporting.

As done in our previous Reports, we share the experiences of people, families and support people so that we can better understand the things that affect their lives and how we can help shape a mental health system that can respond to people’s needs more effectively.

We also share examples of best practice work that is being undertaken in improving mental health outcomes and reducing suicide across Australia.

Australian Defence Force Review Released

On 28 March this year, we provided the Australian Government with our final report on The review of services available to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in relation to prevention of self-harm and suicide.

In conducting the Review, we examined the self-harm and suicide prevention services available to current and former members of the ADF, to assess their accessibility and effectiveness. The primary focus of the Review was the examination of data and evidence about the services and programmes provided by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.

The Commission heard directly from 3,200 people. While some stories pointed out instances of good practice and positive outcomes, there were many strong views expressed by current and former ADF members and their families that identified areas of improvement to the systems, services, beliefs and culture.

In our report back to the Government, we provided 23 recommendations for improving self-harm and suicide prevention. These included a further examination of how the ADF and DVA can develop a unified system which breaks down the siloed approach experienced by current and former serving members and families, and working with the Department of Health to develop strategies, utilising a co-design process, to engage and support former members of the ADF who could be at risk of suicide or self-harm.

The Review was welcomed by the Government. In the 2017-18 Federal Budget, a funding boost of $350 million was allocated to help prevent suicide and self-harm for veterans and current ADF members. Included in the funding was $33.5 million to expand the range of mental health conditions current and former ADF members can seek treatment for.

Housing, Homelessness and Mental Health

During March and April this year, the Commission conducted workshops in eight jurisdictions in all states and territories to discuss and get input regarding housing and homelessness issues for those that experience mental illness. 

Housing and homelessness is a priority for the Commission because for people who are living with a mental health difficulty, getting and keeping their own home is hard to achieve compared to the general community. For the most vulnerable and unwell, cycles of homelessness, unstable housing and poor mental health can become their total life experience.

In the workshops, the Commission discussed a range of topics including how the structure and dynamics of Australia's housing system affect housing and health outcomes for people living with mental illness, what we know about housing experiences of people living with mental illness and how can service systems improve the housing experiences of people living with mental illness. Finally, we discussed how this issue can be moved forward on a local and national level, and how the Commission could support this.

Consumers, carers, families and support people were also invited to share housing and homelessness exeperiences through an online consultation.

The Commission wishes to thank all those that gave their time and experience to the workshops and online consultation process.