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‘System is broken’: mental health Royal Commission will save lives

‘System is broken’: mental health Royal Commission will save lives

Premier Daniel Andrews speaking with mental health nurses at the announcement of a royal commission into mental health services.

Victoria will hold the nation’s first Royal Commission into mental health services if the Andrews Government is re-elected on 24 November.

Work on the wide-ranging Commission, including the appointment of commissioners and the announcement of the terms of reference will start within the first 100 days of a new Andrews Government.

It will focus on the quality and cost of care across the system and aim to address early intervention and how to better support families and mental health nurses and other staff working in the system.

Premier Daniel Andrews said ‘Right now we know that almost two people take their own lives every day. It’s a silent epidemic – an indiscriminate tragedy. Something must be done.

‘From the scourge of addiction to the inadequacy of the current services, nothing will be off limits because if you’re fair dinkum about keeping communities safe you’ve got to acknowledge when the system is broken.

‘We saw that with family violence and although that work is far from over, only by laying bare our failures can we begin to fix them. It’s why we so desperately need this Royal Commission to identify the gaps, to recognise the failings, to find those answers and ultimately to save lives.’

A forensic examination to identify the micro and big picture issues in regional and metropolitan Victoria is the next step after four years of significant catch-up investment in mental health services.

ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: ‘Too many people fall through the cracks in the current system and it can cost them a meaningful and safe future. It can cost them their life. It can tragically change families and communities forever.’

‘We’re removing the stigma around talking about mental illness and seeking help; this is another positive step to maintain the momentum by making sure that when people go looking for support, they get it,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

‘A Royal Commission will reveal the gaps, what we are doing well, what we need to improve and where we have failed so we can build preventative, community, rehabilitation and acute and crisis services that intersect with each other and provide care when and where it’s needed,’ she said.

Any examination of mental health services must look at continuing to build workforce capacity. ANMF will be looking for recommendations that support and expand evidence-based models of care such as the commonwealth-funded, but now almost defunct Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program. The program provided care to thousands of people living with a severe and persistent mental illness.

‘We expect the findings may be similar to the Royal Commission into family violence, which found services were disconnected and lacking coordination,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

The recommendations will hopefully attract the support of a federal government in the future which will partner with the state government and share responsibility  for mental health services.

Authorised by Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary, ANMF (Vic Branch), 535 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000.