Welcome recommendations to build better future for mental health in Australia

Welcome recommendations to build better future for mental health in Australia

Thursday, 19 November 2020

We welcome the Productivity Commission’s recognition that the future of mental health services in Australia must be designed by people with lived experience of mental health issues and focus on the diverse needs of the community, with people given real choices to manage their own mental health.

The commission’s final report on mental health has been released, with wide ranging recommendations to improve responses to mental health in the health system, the justice system and social and community services, as well as workplaces, education, housing and social security.

‘This report is a comprehensive study of the way addressing mental health issues early can bring significant benefits to not only each person, but the whole community,’ said Rowan McRae, Executive Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity.

‘We applaud the Productivity Commission’s focus on creating a ‘people-centred’ system, redesigned with the help of those who have a direct experience of mental health issues.’

‘Importantly, the report recognises the need for more trauma-informed and culturally appropriate services across the health and justice systems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing mental health issues.’

The report also reinforces the potential for the justice system to act as a positive force in someone’s life, by connecting them to the appropriate support services for their circumstances.

Supporting people and protecting their rights

We welcome the recommendation that all people facing mental health tribunal hearings should have the right to access legal advice and representation from appropriately resourced legal assistance providers.

We also welcome the acknowledgement that non-legal advocacy services, like our Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service, play a vital and unique role in supporting people facing compulsory treatment.

As mental health consumer Brendan said as part of our Your story, your say project, ‘everyone who goes through the system should have access to a legal and non-legal advocate to help with the MHT and clinicians.’

Another participant in Your story, your say, spoke of the damage done when they didn’t get help from IMHA early enough.

‘The “protections” in place for my rights were too late and ineffective. I didn’t get access to the Independent Mental Health Advocacy until three weeks into my admission, so many decisions had already taken place. It was made clear there was no room for negotiation.’

Diversion and transition support crucial to justice response

The Productivity Commission also recommends an early intervention approach in the justice system, to ensure people have appropriate mental health and housing supports.

The final report urges governments to expand court diversion programs to ensure they are properly resourced, and available to people in metropolitan, regional and remote areas.

Our clients, Abe and Edwin both speak about the benefits of having their matters dealt with by the Assessment and Referral Court, which takes an intensive case management approach.

‘We are also pleased to see recommendations to improve the quality of mental health services in correctional facilities, and recognition of the role health justice partnerships can play in improving outcomes for people with mental health and legal issues,’ said Dan Nicholson, Executive Director, Criminal Law.  

The report also makes welcome recommendations to ensure people are not discharged into homelessness, when they are released from hospital, custody or institutional care.

‘We support this focus on co-ordinated transition support through improved mental health supports, housing and continuity of care into the community,’ said Dan.

More information

Read about our response to the Productivity Commission’s draft report on mental health.

Watch our CEO Louise Glanville respond to questions from the Productivity Commission.

Read our recommendations to build a better system for people experiencing mental health issues in Victoria.

Read about Your story, your say – our project to help people with a lived experience of the mental health participate in the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.


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