Victoria Legal Aid

Ambitious mental health system change needs careful planning and collaboration

We are sharing some responses to the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System from people with a lived experience. Imogen Gandolfo believes the recommendations have merit but will require plenty of hard work to implement.

Tuesday 16 March 2021 12:00am

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has delivered its final report, making 65 recommendations for changeExternal Link . As implementation begins, we are sharing some responses from people with a lived experience of the system.

Imogen Gandolfo shared her experience with the royal commission through our Your story, your say project, and currently works in the mental health system as a peer support worker.

Following the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report into Victoria’s Mental Health System, I wanted to share some of my reflections on the report.

The commission has set out to change Victoria’s mental health system in some ambitious ways that will require a lot of hard work and collaboration from Government down to carers and everyone in between.

The current system is complex and difficult to navigate, so the commission aims to completely change the way that the system works.

I think that it is important that the commission is adapting the system so that it is in line with the social change and new research and evidence that has come about since it was last updated.

To make the system work and function so that all the needs of consumers are met the current system needs to be completely dismantled and should be completely rebuilt, starting with the core needs that must be met to provide a good mental health system in Victoria.

The commission outlined 65 recommendations for the Victorian Government, which all have merit and are well thought out.

  • Recommendation 3: Establishing a responsive and integrated mental health and wellbeing system, seems to me very ambitious as it covers a lot of ground and seems to need a lot of work to make it the most functional and supportive. This recommendation also refers to catchment areas, the current mental health system has very rigid catchments, which in the past has prevented services from remaining available to people if they happen to move from a certain area/suburb. I think that this reform will be great if it is planned out and executed well, it will need to be a large collaborative process because it covers services statewide and sees almost over 100 new services created.
  • Recommendation 8: Responding to mental health crises is very important and an issue that really resonates with me. I think this recommendation is very valuable especially the proposed improvement of emergency departments and their capacity and ability to respond to a mental health crisis. Having a 24 hour, centrally co-ordinated crisis response service will be of huge value for the community. This also links in with Recommendation 10: Supporting responses from emergency services to mental health crises.
  • Recommendation 23: Establishing a new statewide trauma service and Recommendation 24: A new approach to addressing trauma are very important recommendations in my eyes. These recommendations aim to deliver the best possible outcomes for people with a lived experience of trauma. A key point that is highlighted in both recommendations is the integration and importance of peer support workers in this area of mentally ill health. Peer work is something that I have done for many years and I really see the value and importance of it when supporting consumers.
  • Recommendation 35: Improving outcomes for people living with mental illness and substance use or addiction and Recommendation 36: A new statewide service for people living with mental illness and substance use or addiction are two very important recommendations to me. I have been diagnosed with a mental illness and also deal with substance use and addiction so these recommendations are really important. I believe that there needs to be more integrated treatment and there needs to be more professionals with a good understanding of this dual diagnosis so that optimal outcomes are achieved for this group of consumers.
  • Recommendation 52: Improving the quality and safety of mental health and wellbeing services and Recommendation 53: Strong oversight of the quality and safety of mental health and wellbeing services could be something that has potential to be a struggle to execute well. As someone who has experienced low-quality services and has felt unsafe in a mental health environment, I wonder how the Victorian Government will ensure that these recommendations are executed system wide with a high caliber of quality and safety measures. Furthermore, I think that all staff need to be educated on how to ensure that they provide the best quality care and safety of consumers, whether their role is administrative, security or a doctor. These points also link in with Recommendation 54: Towards the elimination of seclusion and restraint; again I want to raise the importance of implementing workforce training to all staff.

The commission has extensively investigated and spoken to many people about the current 'broken' mental health system in Victoria and has a vision of a brand new system with many important reforms.

It is now in the hands of the Victorian Government to execute the proposed plans and suggestions. It will be a long, yet important, process but it is all with the Victorian community at heart and will benefit all Victorians in the long run.

Hopefully all the hard work that has gone into this inquiry, and all the work that lies ahead, will be well worth it and time and efforts well spent.

The improvement of Victoria’s mental health system has been a long time coming and I sincerely hope that all of the hard work done by the commission and everyone who contributed and were involved, and everyone who will be involved in the implementation, has helped to change our mental health system for the better.

More information

Read the stories and experiences of people with a lived experience of the mental health system in our Your story, your say project.

Read about our submissions and recommendations to the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.

Read the royal commission's final report and recommendations on its websiteExternal Link .

Reviewed 19 April 2022