Chapter 2: Working together
To achieve significant change, the responsibility for mental health must be across governments, sectors, services and communities. This has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been an urgent need for governments to access timely, reliable data on the effects of COVID-19 and the mental health system's capacity, so that they can make swift, evidence-based decisions.
Government agencies and the research sector have responded by establishing new collaborations and data collections, or pivoting existing collections to rapidly produce relevant data. This coordinated response demonstrates the capacity for greater collaboration in system and data processes when the impetus is there.
As discussed in Section 1, to effectively address mental health and suicide prevention in Australia, a national approach is required to improve strategic oversight and coordination of mental health policy and investment.
This approach views mental health and suicide prevention as a whole-of-government priority, across portfolios and beyond the traditional focus on health. This will ensure that mental health is consistently and fairly prioritised.
A strong, coordinated suite of national governance structures is required, including formal agreements between the Australian Government and state and territory governments, and consistent national and state-based legislation and policies.
The Commission welcomes the establishment of the Mental Health National Cabinet Reform Committee, which will establish a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement by November 2021. It has long been known that the mental health and suicide prevention system is complex and fragmented, with a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities. The new agreement will be the first step in strengthening the fundamental building blocks of funding and governance in the mental health system.
Working together is more than establishing agreements between governments. Recent inquiries and reports, as well as information gathered through Vision 2030 consultations, have highlighted the benefits of working together to establish responsibilities; harnessing information through the collection and sharing of data, monitoring and evaluation; and facilitating a partnership approach to systems improvement. For example, the final report of the Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health has recommended a number of actions to enhance consumer and carer collaboration, and strengthen the funding, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention policies, services and programs.
Governance structures can and should ensure that consumers and carers participate fully in the design of policies and programs that affect their lives.