Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that one in five Australians and nearly half of all adults would experience a mental or behavioural condition in their lifetime, and over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt each year. A parliamentary inquiry found that the COVID-19 pandemic and successive natural disasters have amplified social disadvantage, service demands, and the number of mental illness presentations, as well as exposed the limitations of Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention and aftercare service systems.
The House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention has released its final report, calling on the Australian Government to implement reform to address the pandemic-and natural disaster-induced mental health, suicidality, and social and emotional wellbeing crisis.
Chair of the Committee, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘It is clear our mental health and suicide prevention sectors need fundamental reform to address workforce shortages, fill service gaps, and protect our most vulnerable populations. The Committee has made a series of recommendations to address these critical needs. Recognising the sense of urgency for improved services and outcomes for all Australians, the Committee calls on governments to prioritise finalising the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement and progress to implementation.’
‘The diversity of the evidence raised a series of policy and legislative concerns that require further examination and highlighted the need to place mental health on the same footing as physical health. In response, the Committee has recommended the appointment of a Standing Committee on Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and Social and Emotional Wellbeing to offer a bipartisan mechanism to scrutinise reform implementation, government policies and performance, and ensure community views continue to be heard.’
Dr Martin continued, ‘The Committee encourages the Australian Government to minimise future costs to individuals and the economy through committing to action on the Committee’s 44 recommendations. These contribute to and champion many of the recommendations and reports already before the Australian Government.’
‘Importantly, the Government needs to respond to the consistent call from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, to strengthen social and emotional wellbeing programs and formalise commissioning pathways for cultural responses to mental health and suicide prevention. The Committee supports this message and has translated it into recommendations, including for the Australian Government to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership within the mental health system through fully implementing the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration.’
The Committee received 232 submissions, 47 exhibits, and held 17 public hearings with stakeholders from across Australia. The Committee would like to express its appreciation to all who have contributed their time, knowledge and lived experience throughout the course of the inquiry.
A final copy of the Committee’s final report can be found on the Inquiry website: Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - Final Report – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au).
NOTE: The Committee is unable to intervene or provide advice in relation to individual circumstances. If you are in immediate danger, please contact 000. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact one of the services below:
Office of Dr Fiona Martin MP
Chair of Committee
(02) 9715 7444
For background information
02 6277 4633
For more information about this Committee, you can visit its website. On the site, you can view submissions, transcripts of public hearings, and the Committee’s reports.