The National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) has today welcomed the National Cabinet’s commitment to support and respond to the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan, and acknowledges the additional $48.1M investment the Australian Government has announced in support of the priority actions.
The Commission’s CEO, Christine Morgan, expressed her gratitude and thanks to the co-leadership of the Victorian and New South Wales governments on behalf of the state and territory governments, and the mental health sector leaders who represent research and clinical and lived experience, which has guided the development and final settings within the Plan.
"Australia’s mental health and wellbeing is equally as important as our physical health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Plan is a testament to a unified commitment, by governments and the sector, to support all Australians mental health and wellbeing during the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It will require a concerted and coordinated response from all levels of government and the mental health system,” said Ms Morgan.
Currently available data indicates that there are higher levels of reported anxiety and psychological distress in the general population, and that some people with severe, complex and chronic mental illness have disconnected from services. There is also strong evidence that there are risks of increasing mental ill health, including new presentations of mental distress and illness, increased substance use and increased risk of suicide in the longer term.
Chair of the Commission’s Advisory Board, Lucy Brogden AM said “We are pleased to see that the Australian Government’s existing commitment to modelling timely data to inform suicide prevention responses has been reflected in the Plan through one of the three priority commitments. The new modelling project will aim to monitor and model five priority groups of data including 12 diverse data sets to enable as near to real-time understanding of how Australians are experiencing life during and into their recovery of the pandemic.
“An effective pandemic mental health and wellbeing response requires the adoption of change and a commitment of resources by all jurisdictions. The Plan recognises that now is the time to accelerate reforms and the changes needed to our mental health system across all jurisdictions,” said Mrs Brogden.
In a number of areas, the Plan also assertively promotes the need for increased in-community delivery of services and support, and recognises the importance of building new and sustainable referral pathways. Reforms to the mental health system need to make available and deliver new models of care and support within these settings.
“We need to innovate current and new treatment support and services, with a focus on reaching people where they experience mental ill health, and mindful of their preferred delivery mechanism," Ms Morgan added.
“The Commission is pleased that significant recognition has been given to the social context in which we experience mental health and wellbeing in our lives - where we live, work, learn and engage with our communities. Acknowledging and responding to this important context will help people connect to support and services in a timely and effective way,” Mrs Brogden said
"The Plan is also the strongest coordinated mental health response that Australia has ever had to recognising the intersection of mental health, suicide prevention and domestic and family violence.
“Importantly, the Plan includes the many and diverse vulnerable groups who are at risk of adverse experiences of mental health, who have acute and complex experiences of mental illness, are at higher risk of suicide and self-harm, and need a coordinated and reinforced service system to ensure that the services they need are available when and how they need them.
“Given the diversity of mental health and wellbeing needs, we are pleased that one of the three priority action items in the Plan will provide clear pathways to connect people to the services and support that they need.
“The Plan equally responds to the experience of families who have all been impacted by the pandemic differently, and will experience the complexities and adverse impacts of the social and economic stressors with different levels of need."
“We understand and acknowledge the risk factors for suicide during the response and recovery phases of the pandemic, and are pleased that the Plan includes comprehensive responses and system reform opportunities. This is a testament to each government’s commitment to suicide prevention, as well as further supporting the commitment to achieve a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention," Ms Morgan said.
“The Plan is dependent on the dedication and professionalism of our mental health workforce across primary, tertiary and allied areas of expertise, services and delivery. In a time of rapid change and challenges we recognise that our workforce will need to be upskilled and will need emotional support as they respond to the mental health and wellbeing needs of Australians.
“As reforms are developed and delivered the expertise of our workforce will need to be included as will be lived experiences of millions of Australians, to ensure the expansions and system reconfigurations are fit for purpose, are unified and consistent across all jurisdictions.”
The Plan was developed using seven foundational principals and identifies 10 priorities to guide and inform decision making, and to ensure that responses are consistent and connected to a national mental health system. The principles align the immediate response to the pandemic and the long-term work needed to deliver system reform.
Media contact: Danielle Cuthbert - 0418 810 239
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