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Calls for ‘whole-of-government approach’ to mental health and suicide


Paul Hayes


23/09/2019 12:05:38 PM

A new National Mental Health Commission report outlines a number of key recommendations for improvement within a changing system.

Lonely person walking
Australia’s mental health system has been described as ‘complex and fragmented’.

‘Current national reforms are key, but complex, interrelated and broad in scope, and will take time before their implementation leads to tangible change for consumers and carers.’
 
That is National Mental Health Commission (NNHC) Advisory Board Chair, Lucy Brogden, discussing the current state of mental health and suicide prevention in Australia.
 
The NNHC’s Monitoring mental health and suicide prevention reform: National report 2019 outlines the fact Australia’s mental health system is undergoing significant change. It describes reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (Fifth Plan), Primary Health Networks (PHNs), and other activities in suicide prevention as ‘ambitious in their scope’.
 
‘The national report indicates while there are significant reforms underway at national, state and local levels, it’s crucial that we maintain momentum and implement these recommendations to ensure sustained change for consumers and carers,’ Ms Brogden said.
 
According to the report, 3128 people died by suicide in Australia in 2017, a 9% increase from the previous year. In addition, suicide was the leading cause of death of children aged 5–17 years, with 98 deaths occurring in this age group in 2017, and the suicide rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people is more than twice that of non-Indigenous Australians.
 
‘The mental health system in Australia is complex and fragmented, with roles and responsibilities spread across governments, as well as the non-government and private sectors,’ the report states.
 
This fragmentation has led to calls for a more integrated approach.
 
‘The NMHC recommends that, subject to the findings of the Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health, the Australian Government considers the role of a central government agency to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to mental health policy,’ the report states.
 
‘In addition, the NMHC recommends that, subject to the findings of the Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health, governments consider the role of an independent statutory body to monitor and evaluate mental health policy outcomes.
 
‘This includes the current levels of expenditure on mental health, and whether investment in mental health is effective, efficient and informed by evidence-based policy.’
 
Early intervention was highlighted as a key to preventing issues of mental health later in life.
 
‘Investing in early intervention and prevention strategies will reduce the likelihood of consumers needing costly supports, services and systems, including the child protection and justice systems, acute hospital care, and social support payments,’ the report states.



government mental health National Mental Health Commission report



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