CEO Update - Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan

Today I have been in Melbourne with other representatives from across the sector to talk to government about the next draft of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

As many of you will know, this process has been running for some two years already, and is now reaching its conclusion.

Australia’s federated structure makes the development of national plans very difficult.

State and territory governments, and the Commonwealth Government, all come to the table to develop these plans – in this case for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

The risk of these national plans is that in order to achieve agreement, the path of least resistance is often taken – rather than the bold action that might be required in order to overcome particular challenges.

National plans can appear very boring and esoteric. It can be very hard to see the connection between the lived experience of mental illness and the plans that determine the systems and processes that offer support.

But at their best, such plans do guide the investments governments make in programs and services.  They can also create an environment that allows NGOs, philanthropists and others to invest and plan their future development and growth.

Mental Health Australia has been very encouraged that the Commonwealth Government ran quite an extensive consultation process to seek views from the sector. Following that process, the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Principal Committee have been active in clarifying that feedback, and in trying to incorporate it into the current draft.

We have also been very encouraged that at their recent meeting, health ministers decided to upgrade the status of suicide prevention within the plan.

As we get closer to the final plan, Mental Health Australia will continue to ask that key elements should be made clear and included in the plan;

  • Clear accountability and monitoring, including a strengthened role for the National Mental Health Commission.
  • What governance arrangements will keep states and territories, and the Commonwealth Government at the table.
  • Clarity about the “who, what and when” for all the actions identified.
  • A structural response to consumer and carer “co-design”. How this will be supported.
  • What the interface with mental health systems and the NDIS looks like. And how gaps will be avoided.
  • How prevention, health promotion and early intervention can be supported.
  • How digital transformation can be achieved.

We don’t have much time to influence the plan. By May most of the draft will be settled for the consideration of health ministers.

It is clearly time for all of us to let state and territory health ministers and the Commonwealth Minister know what we now expect from the plan.

Warm regards 


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