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A message from our Chair

A message from our Chair

We’re in the final quarter of 2017 and have plenty of activity to update you on. 

The Commission visited Townsville for a community forum in September where local stakeholders talked about their mental health concerns for the area. It was a great opportunity to discuss the integration of mental health services in Townsville as part of our program of visiting regional sites across Australia. More information on the forum is included in this edition.

Professor Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

Call for change in seclusion and restraint practices in Australia

We recently released findings from a Commission funded seclusion and restraint project which revealed that despite best practice techniques being available to reduce or eliminate seclusion and restraint, national system-wide implementation is inconsistent.

The project, conducted by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) and led by Professor Elimear Muir-Cochrane from Flinders University, found that clinical factors stand in the way of achieving a restraint free environment.

“We examined nurse perceptions of barriers and enablers to eliminating seclusion and restraint use in psychiatric inpatient settings and emergency departments,” Professor Muir-Cochrane said.

Adjunct Associate Professor Kim Ryan, CEO of the ACMHN outlined other factors which are currently hindering a restraint free environment.

“There are inadequate practice development opportunities for staff and limited or no education for families about alternatives; conflicts between staff approaches; and communication difficulties."

Dr Peggy Brown, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission said sustained attention is required to reduce the use of all forms of restraint within mental health services, including physical, mechanical and chemical restraint.

“It’s important to have a focus on national efforts to reduce the rates of seclusion and restraint, and in particular for vulnerable groups, such as children and adolescents,” Dr Brown said.

The Commission suggests a change to reduce the use of restrictive practices by increasing the use of the ‘recovery approach’ to treatment and care in mental health services.

You can read more about the review, and the Commission’s position paper.

The Commission meets Townsville stakeholders

In September, the National Mental Health Commission travelled to Townsville for its 38th meeting as part of our program of visiting regional sites across Australia. We invited consumers, carers and supporting organisations to discuss integration of mental health services in the area.

The forum provided a valuable opportunity to hear local experience on mental health and suicide prevention, integration and psychosocial disability in Queensland and contribute to our monitoring and reporting of mental health needs in rural and regional centres.

Stakeholder engagement is key to our reporting and monitoring of Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention systems. This engagement allows us to ensure that an individual’s locality does not impact their wellbeing or access to quality mental health services.

We heard from several local mental health care organisations including the Townsville Suicide Prevention Network, who identified their main issues as a transient population and lack of connectedness to community. The Townsville Private Clinic also shared their experiences with the majority of their patients being current or former Australian Defence Force personnel, primarily in their Trauma Recovery Program.

The key priorities identified for the area were engagement with local community, involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents, advances in after and crisis care and engagement with former Australian Defence Force personnel.

The Commission thanks the Townsville community for welcoming us and engaging in such a valuable discussion. 

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Monitoring and Reporting Framework Workshops

We are conducting workshops across the country to consult with key stakeholders on the strengths and weaknesses of Australia’s mental health system. These consultations will assist with the development a Monitoring and Reporting Framework on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which will be available in early 2018.

We will be meeting stakeholders including peak bodies, service providers, carers and consumers in Hobart, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin over a one month period from 13 October to 16 November to share their insights from their respective fields of mental health expertise.

National monitoring and reporting on mental health and suicide prevention is core to the Commission’s role and consultation is vital in implementing effective reporting frameworks. Through these workshops we will be able to shape future mental health and suicide prevention reform and continue the Commission’s mission of ensuring Australians achieve the best possible mental health and wellbeing.

You can also be part of the conversation by sharing your views via our online survey here before 17 November, 2017.

The Actuaries Institute Launches Mental Health and Insurance Green Paper

National Mental Health Commission Co-Chair Lucy Brogden launched the Actuaries Institute Mental Health and Insurance Green Paper on 18 October.

The Paper reviews Australia's insurance industry for those affected by mental health conditions, with its findings concluding that substantial work is required to improve policies for those suffering from a mental health condition.

Head to Health – Your Online Mental Health Resource

Head to Health is a new digital mental health gateway that links Australians to online and telephone mental health services, information and resources appropriate for their individual needs. Launched during Mental Health Week (8-14 Oct) , the website features resources ranging from free apps to secure phone services.

One in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness each year. By providing a one-stop-shop of 370 mental health services and resources, Head to Health will help people to take control of their mental health, at a time and place convenient to them. It supports people seeking help before they reach crisis - either for themselves or someone they care about.

Aboriginal flag Torres Strait Islander flag

Acknowledgement of Country

The Commission acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their clans, and to the elders, past present and emerging, and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community.


The Commission is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. The Commission welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lived Experience

We acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of those with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide, and those who love, have loved and care for them. Each person’s journey is unique and a valued contribution to Australia’s commitment to mental health suicide prevention systems reform.