- 1) The Australian Government should develop a National Older Persons Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the Aged Care Royal Commission, have highlighted the mental health needs of older people, in both residential aged care facilities and the community, and the need for national consistency in service delivery of mental health supports for older people. To ensure that older people with a mental health issue can live a contributing life, and participate in their communities, a national coordinated response is needed to address the mental health crisis in aged care, as well as broader mental health impacts on older people living in the community.
The strategy should ensure a holistic approach to planning and delivery of mental health supports for older people, across the spectrum of care: promotion, prevention, crisis intervention, treatment and recovery.
- 2) The Australian Government should develop a National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Implementation Plan.
With the development of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy, due to be completed in mid-2021, there is an opportunity to significantly improve the mental health workforce, particularly in regional and remote areas, by improving training and education, incorporating fully the peer and lived experience workforce, and developing a whole-of-government approach to funding and policy directions.
A critical next step will be developing an implementation plan to highlight the priority actions, with measurable milestones and realistic time frames, to ensure that these improvements are realised.
- 3) The Australian Government should develop a National e-Mental Health Strategy.
As we move to greater use of digital supports, it is vital that digital services are consistent in their quality of care, are accessible to all who would benefit from them and, most importantly, operate within a strategic and coordinated e-mental health ecosystem. To complement the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards and upcoming National Digital Mental Health Framework, an e-Mental Health Strategy should be developed.
- 4) The Australian Government should develop a National Regional and Remote Mental Health Strategy.
The National Mental Health Workforce Strategy currently in development will consider the quality, supply, distribution and structure of the mental health workforce, and identify ways of improving recruitment and retention in regional and remote locations.
Although this work is welcome, there have been calls for a National Regional and Remote Mental Health Strategy that looks holistically at the issues faced across diverse communities in regional and remote Australia. In 2018, the Senate's Community Affairs References Committee published the Accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia final report, which recommended a national strategy on rural and remote mental health to address the low rates of access to mental health services, and the tragically high rate of suicide in Australia's rural and remote communities.
Once the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy has been finalised, it is recommended that the Australian Government develop a National Regional and Remote Mental Health Strategy that looks holistically at the issues faced across diverse communities in regional and remote Australia.