The terms of reference include inquiring into the findings of the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Mental Health, the Report of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, the Victorian Royal Commission, the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy and other recent strategic reviews of the mental health system in light of events such as the 2019 bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.
The Committee began the inquiry with an interest in understanding how these various reports and strategic reviews were being brought together to contribute to system-wide improvements. The Committee initially focussed on the Productivity Commission and Victorian Royal Commission reports as the final versions of the report of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser and the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy are yet to be released.
The Department of Health advised that the final advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser was submitted to the Prime Minister in December 2020, noting that the report ‘prioritises community-led and person-centred solutions to ensure suicide prevention services reach Australians who need them and communities are supported.’ On receipt, the Committee will review the report with a particular interest in recommendations on data collection, prevention, assessment as well as follow-up on discharge and aftercare.
The Committee received submissions from, and held public hearings on 18 March 2021 with, the Productivity Commission, the Department of Health, and the National Mental Health Commission.
Appearing before the Committee, the Productivity Commission noted that the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System report is distinct from the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Mental Health. The latter focussed on establishing a framework to address current structural and social barriers and gaps, rather than recommending specific services or particular approaches for regions or communities, which the former addressed.
The Department of Health described the work underway as ‘a once-in-a-generation chance for reform’ and emphasised the high degree of collaboration with and between the Victorian Royal Commission, the Productivity Commission and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser.
These reviews all recognise the economic and social impact of mental health, the importance of prevention and early intervention, and the need to better clarify, integrate and fund mental health services across the system.
In terms of next steps, the Department explained that these reports were presented to the National Federation Reform Council, which subsequently committed to the development of National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement by November 2021.
The National Mental Health Commission’s submission noted that:
While recent strategic reviews of the current mental health system have each been unique in scope and purpose, they consistently identify common concerns, priorities and actions to address longstanding issues in mental health care and suicide prevention in Australia.
The National Mental Health Commission noted the following critical gaps:
Workforce; considering the national foundations and oversight needed to facilitate local capacity building.
Stigma and discrimination; addressing national understanding of and attitudes towards mental health.
Accessibility particularly affordability; creating a universally accessible system of resources and supports ensuring that everyone is able to access care when and where they need it.
Implementation of change; considering the oversight, capacities, forces and resources require[d] to implement reform recommendations in a sustainable way.
Included below is some of the other work that has been, or is currently being, completed within the mental health and suicide prevention area at the Commonwealth level. It is not exhaustive and is merely a limited selection of government-related work. The list serves only to demonstrate the extensive work undertaken in this area and reaffirms the need for a coordinated approach to an area of significant breadth.
The Committee is grateful to all of the individuals and bodies who have contributed to its inquiry so far. To date the Committee has received over 200 submissions and other contributions to its inquiry into mental health and suicide prevention. The Committee will be considering these over the next few months.
Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, in progress
Final Report: Care Dignity and Respect, Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, 26 February 2021
Government reports and strategies
Vision 2030 for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, National Mental Health Commission, in progress
The National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, National Mental Health Commission, in progress
Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study, Department of Health and Australian Bureau of Statistics, in progress
Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-23, Department of Health and Implementation Plan Working Group, next iteration in progress
Independent Review of Past Defence and Veteran Suicides, National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, in progress
Mental health impact of COVID-19, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 29 January 2021
Antidepressant utilisation and risk of suicide in young people: Safety investigation, Therapeutic Goods Administration, December 2020
Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce Report on Telehealth Recommendations 2020, Department of Health, December 2020
National Agreement on Closing the Gap, Joint Council on Closing the Gap, July 2020
National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan, National Mental Health Commission, May 2020
Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, 2019: The consumer and carer perspective, National Mental Health Commission, October 2019