It is my pleasure to introduce the first quarterly newsletter of 2016.
It has been a productive start to the year for the National Mental Health Commission. At the end of 2015 the Government responded to our review Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities, and we are very pleased they endorsed so much of the report.
The Government has recognised the need for structural reform, and although there will be implementation challenges ahead, Primary Health Networks will play a vital role in ensuring the mental health needs of communities are properly understood and there is an integrated stepped care response matched to need.
This year we continue to work on a number of projects - including the National Consensus Statement on the Physical Health of People with a Mental Illness, which you can read more about in this edition of the newsletter. We are also preparing our National Report on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and very importantly, increasing our focus on suicide prevention. The latest statistics show that suicides have increased by ten percent and that should not be acceptable in a humane society such as ours.
We look forward to sharing further updates with you as the year progresses.
Professor Allan Fels AO
Chair, National Mental Health Commission
New publication on patterns of use
A new publication released on 24 March by the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides insight into how Australians used mental health services and medications in 2011.
The report was produced as part of the Mental Health Services-Census Data Integration Project, on behalf of the National Mental Health Commission.
Project update - Consensus Statement
Many Australians with a mental illness are not receiving the physical health care and support they need. On average, people with a mental illness die decades younger than the general population, often due to preventable or treatable physical health problems.
To address these inequalities the Commission is facilitating the development of a National Consensus Statement on the Physical Health of People with a Mental Illness. The aim is to develop a shared vision for the future, which leads to action so that people living with mental health conditions have the same life expectancy and quality of life as those without mental health conditions.
Creating the Consensus Statement has involved significant collaboration and consultation, and we would like to thank the many organisations and individuals who provided input, particularly the Expert Advisory Group. The Statement is now in its final draft, and we will provide further details about its release and endorsement in the coming months.
Suicide at highest rate in ten years
The 2014 Causes of Death data, released last month by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows that suicide is at the highest rate in ten years and remains the leading cause of death in people aged 15-34. Men account for three quarters of all suicide deaths, and the suicide rate for our Indigenous community is twice that of the non-Indigenous community.
The Commission highlighted the need for further work in suicide prevention and a reduction in deaths from suicide through the 2012 and 2013 National Report Cards on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and made recommendations in Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities - the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services in 2014.
This will be the focus of the National Expert Advisory Group for Suicide Prevention, which is being established by the Commission as part of ongoing mental health and suicide prevention reform following the Government’s response to the National Review.
Get to know our Commissioners...
Nicole Gibson was appointed as a National Mental Health Commissioner in 2014. As the youngest ever Commissioner, she brings a unique perspective as well as her own lived experience to the Commission.
Nicole established the Rogue & Rouge Foundation in 2011 on her 18th birthday, after personal experience with mental health issues. The Foundation aims to reverse the stigmatisation of mental health, body image and self-esteem issues in Australia’s young people. Nicole understands the importance of sharing her story, because as she says, "It's crucial to listen to those who have had lived experience, if we really want to see a shift in the way we perceive mental health".
Nicole works within the education system to empower, inspire and support young people through the creation of community outreach programs. To date, she has facilitated workshops in 300 communities with more than 150,000 people right across Australia. She was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year 2014 and has received numerous honours and awards for her work in the mental health space.
This April, Nicole will represent the Commission in Alice Springs at the Caring for Country Kids Conference. Here she will facilitate a workshop on mental health care for country kids and their families, focusing on the importance of integrated care pathways and a community-based approach.