CEO Update from Mental Health Australia: Are we there yet? Will 2022 finally be the turning point for mental health in Australia?

Fireworks over Kings Avenue, Parkes ACT, Australia

Welcome to 2022 and the marathon of living in a community grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. Like many of you, my holiday break with my family was impacted directly by COVID and with home-based isolation comes enforced rest and also reflection.

Are we there yet? 

Increasing investment from Governments has been very welcome, but it should contribute to a cohesive vision for integrated service responses, clearer shared accountabilities, and be informed by lived experience, scientific evidence and sector experience.  

There is currently no public-facing plan to implement the recommendations of extensive recent inquiries to improve the mental health system, let alone a budgetary plan or co-design around implementation. Multiple inquiries have called for a person-led mental health system, which is community-focussed, trauma-informed and recovery-oriented. There is a large system gap between mild/moderate services and moderate/severe services in the community.

We are not there yet.

We urgently need an agreed vision and plan for a comprehensive system of integrated care. We have to better meet the needs of diverse population groups who are disproportionately impacted by mental illness. There are significant workforce shortages that need to be addressed urgently, and the peer (lived experience) workforce is under-utilised.

Our contemporary mental health ecosystem now looks for lived experience and carer leadership not only participation or as passive recipients of communication strategies. As the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health Final Report indicated, “consumers and carers should have the opportunity to participate in the design of policies and programs that affect their lives” and yet we are still awaiting the outcomes of 2021-22 Budget work to “investigate and co-design future national peak body arrangements.”

We are not there yet.

It is no surprise that a comprehensive implementation plan and accompanying budgetary plan would take time given the whole-of-government and inter-jurisdictional nature of recommendations provided by both the Productivity Commission and the Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Final Advice. Many of the recommended actions require negotiation not just across Australian Government Departments but also between the Australian and State and Territory Governments. 

Mental Health Australia expects that the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement (‘the National Agreement’), recently provided with in-principle endorsement by the National Cabinet, will provide clear delineation between the roles of the Australian and State and Territory Governments. 
We now eagerly await the public release of the National Agreement and the bilateral agreements between the Australian and State and Territory Governments. This is where we expect detailed implementation plans and accompanying budgetary plans to be articulated.

The 2022-23 Budget must build on this first down payment and offer sustained and significant investment in mental health reform to set Australia on a path to fully realise the vision outlined by the Productivity Commission for a person-led and community-focused mental health system. For further information on our Budget Submission for 2022-23 see below.

As we launch into the year ahead I am reminded of when our children were little and as we travelled for holidays they would ask the inevitable ‘Are we there yet?’. 

Their Dad would always reply ‘Nearly. It’s just around the corner’.

Let’s work together to get around that corner!


Dr Leanne Beagley
CEO


House Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety’s Inquiry

Matt Berriman (Chair, Mental Health Australia) was invited as a witness at the public hearing for the House Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety’s Inquiry. His experience in the technology sector means he provides unique insights into their operations and also their ‘ways of working’ with regulators & governments. Technology is entrenched in our lives and community, especially for the younger generations - it has brought many positives including connection, information discovery, creativity and communication that otherwise wouldn’t once have been possible. However, it has also come at a cost for many – including parents, their children and their mental health due to the freedom that has allowed social media companies to become so powerful. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s deliberations in building a better future for our community and their mental health, and to ensure we have the right legislation and protections in place to govern those companies that want to operate in Australia but are not aligned to that mission. We also note that members of Mental Health Australia (Orygen, Butterfly and Reach Out) provided submissions to this inquiry.


2022-23 Pre-Budget Submission

The 2022-23 Budget offers the Australian Government the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to reforming Australia’s mental health system to one which is person-led and community-focussed. 

As outlined in this Pre-Budget Submission, only significant and sustained investment in Australia’s mental health system will produce the reform required for all people experiencing mental ill-health to receive the care they need. It is now authoritatively clear that mental health requires billions of dollars of investment, not millions.

The Productivity Commission has provided a once-in-a-generation Inquiry into Mental Health, shining an uncompromising light on the deeply flawed nature of the current mental health system. Further, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve in Australia it is clear that the mental health impacts associated with it, and measures to contain it, will be ongoing and require a mental health response for some time.

The 2022-23 Budget must build on the first down payment, made in the 2021-22 Budget, and offer sustained and significant investment in mental health reform to set Australia on a path to fully realise the vision outlined by the Productivity Commission for a person-led and community-focussed mental health system.

In this 2022-23 Budget Submission, Mental Health Australia calls on the Australian Government to invest in four key priorities to sustain momentum in mental health reform. These priorities have been identified through analysis of yet-to-be implemented recommendations from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and prioritised through consultation with Mental Health Australia members.

In the 2022-23 Budget, the Australian Government should invest in:
 
1 Lived experience leadership:

  • formal national structures to represent the views of people with lived experience of mental ill-health and carers 

2 Government leadership and accountability:

  • outlining funding that will be committed by the Australian Government through the impending bilateral agreements with the State and Territory Governments and the structures which will support accountable leadership across jurisdictions to deliver an integrated end-to-end system

3 Co-designed implementation of a community focussed mental health system:

  • co-design of an effective integrated system of community-focused mental health treatment and support
  • establishment of a national community mental health dataset 
  • growing psychosocial supports to match need
  • addressing the social determinants of mental health 

The mental health workforce:

  • addressing urgent mental health workforce gaps
  • establishment of a national centre for evidence-based workforce development. 

Submissions on revised Religious Discrimination Bill 2021

In December Mental Health Australia provided a submission on the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills to both the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry regarding the proposed legislation. While the Bills are an improvement to previous iterations, Mental Health Australia has remaining concerns about the unintended consequences of introducing legislation that while introducing protections for some people, overrides antidiscrimination protections of others. These brief submissions focussed on the potential impact of the proposed Bills to increase discrimination against population groups who already experience disproportionate rates of mental ill-health.


Work with us!

Mental Health Australia is recruiting a range of new roles in External Relations, Team Support, Lived Experience advocacy and support, and Project Management of the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project. Roles we’re recruiting for include:

  • Partnerships Coordinator. Use your leadership, communication and strategic skills to nurture relationships and ensure that stakeholder views are reflected in Mental Health Australia’s advocacy, policy and communications.
  • Policy and Project Officer. Provide policy and project support to the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF). Assist with project design, implementation and delivery, focusing on policy and advocacy.
  • Project and Administration Officer. Provide support to mental health consumers and carers engaged in MHA and MHA-auspiced activity. 
  • Project Manager for the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project. Ensure that work is planned and managed effectively and the Embrace Project outcomes are successfully delivered. 
  • Executive Assistance Team Support Officer. This part-time position is responsible for providing high level Executive and administrative support to the organisation.

Closing dates for applications are between 27-31 January.

 

NEXT WEEK

On Monday and Tuesday our new Board Chair, Matt Berriman will be in Canberra and spending time with us and in meetings with the Department of Health.

On Thursday I am catching up with staff returning from leave and also have a meeting of the Expert Advisory Group for the Occupational Therapy Australia mental health project – this time looking at professional practice issues.

On Friday we have a meeting with Alex Haines from the National Mental Health Commission to discuss progress in the implementation of the National Children’s Mental Health Strategy. 

 

Member Benefits, Jobs and Profiles

Communicate your news, job vacancies, or upcoming events to more than 5,000 people in the mental health ecosystem weekly.

Mental Health Australia members are invited to send us news, announcements, job vacancies, events or other notices for inclusion in the Weekly CEO Update newsletter. To do so, simply fill out this form by COB each Wednesday for your notice to appear in the newsletter the following Friday.

 

Job vacancy

Community Engagement Coordinator - Blue Voices (Lived Experience)

The Community Engagement Coordinator (Blue Voices) provides coordination and administrative support across Beyond Blue’s Community Engagement team with a primary focus on Blue Voices. The candidate will have a minimum of two years’ experience in an admin/coordinator role. Your solid understanding and competence in using website content management systems, databases and other online technologies will underpin your high attention to detail, strong written and oral communication skills and your ability to adjust to a range of audiences. The role will require availability for some local and interstate travel including weekends to events during peak periods.


Member Profiles

 

Relationships Australia logo

Relationships Australia
Relationships Australia is a federation of community-based, not-for-profit organisations with no religious affiliations.  Our services are for all members of the community, regardless of religious belief, age, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle choice, living arrangements, cultural background or economic circumstances. Relationships Australia has, for over 70 years, provided a range of relationship services to Australian families, including individual, couple and family group counselling, dispute resolution, services to older people, children’s services, services for victims and perpetrators of family violence, and relationship and professional education.  We aim to support all people in Australia to live with positive and respectful relationships, and believe that people have the capacity to change how they relate to others and develop better health and wellbeing.


Mental Health Partners logo

Mental Health Partners
Mental Health Partners offers help and strategic planning for workplace mental health and provides accredited or custom-designed mental health training courses which come with complimentary 24/7 support and aftercare from experienced professionals. Fully accredited, and highly knowledgeable, the Mental Health Partners team is always there when you need us, we’ll help you create and maintain a mentally healthy and productive work environment.

 

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

Translated information on testing for COVID-19, and for people who test positive for COVID-19

These fact sheets, developed by the Department of Health, contain important information on the types of tests available in Australia and when to get tested, and information for people who test positive for COVID-19 or are close contacts. There’s also further information for people who contract COVID-19 including guidance on symptoms, when to call an ambulance, and how to isolate. 

The fact sheets are available in 63 languages:

Getting tested for COVID-19

Information for people who test positive for COVID-19, or are close contacts

What to expect when you have COVID-19

Embrace Australia logo (a rectangle with a light and dark purple cultural stripe pattern with "embrace" and stylised outline of the Australian continent in the lower right corner).

 

Mental Health News

National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-32 draft released for public comment

The draft National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 outlines a shared long-term commitment to a future free from all forms of gender-based violence in Australia built on four pillars: Prevention, Intervention, Response and Recovery. These pillars are underpinned by four foundation principles - gender equality, Closing the Gap, intersectionality and that the diverse lived experiences of victim-survivors inform policies and solutions. Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne announced that the Morrison Government would invest $1 million to ensure ongoing engagement with victim-survivors throughout the life of the next National Plan in support of the foundation principle.


More funding for free mental health counselling for small business

The Morrison Government is doubling funding for free mental health support to small business owners to assist them through the current COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters. An additional $4.6 million of funding will ensure Beyond Blue can boost the successful and innovative mental health program, NewAccess for Small Business Owners and a further $2.1 million will ensure Financial Counselling Australia can extend the Small Business Debt Helpline for 2022. 


Psychiatrists commend government’s swift action on telehealth fixes

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has commended the government for its quick response in addressing key services gaps in the new telehealth arrangements. The RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, welcomed the additional $24 million for temporary telehealth measures which will better support general practitioners and specialists to provide much need care to patients. “We are still going through the details of the package, but we thank the government for responding so quickly to RANZCP’s call and those of psychiatrists across the country who have expressed concern about the experiences of patients with particular needs.”


$14.8 million for innovative mental health clinical trials

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, says seven clinical trials testing the use of potential breakthrough combination therapies to treat debilitating mental illnesses will receive a total of almost $15 million from the Morrison Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). There is growing evidence that substances such as psilocybin, and 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and cannabidiol (CBD) when used in a controlled environment and supported by psychological/ psychiatric care, may help treat mental illness that has not responded to other treatments.


OzHelp survey finds tradies most stressed by work pressures

A new survey by OzHelp Foundation (OzHelp) that takes the pulse of the mental health and wellbeing of tradies nationally, has found that work pressures, such as deadlines and long work hours, are the number one causes of stress. The top three stressors for tradies were work pressures (62%), followed by family and relationship pressures (44%), and financial pressures (41%). Stress due to mental health and Covid-19 restrictions rated fourth and fifth respectively.

 

Reminders 

Resources for Frontline Workers and Healthcare Personnel

To offer our support during this turbulent time, the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association has created specific resources to provide practical tips, techniques and strategies that help prioritise and tend to your mental health and wellbeing.

Applications open for Mentally Healthy Workplaces Grant program (WA)

The WA Government has launched a grant program to help prevent mental health injury at work and promote positive work practices. The Mentally Healthy Workplaces Grant program will provide funding up to $175,000 per year to entities for initiatives that will support mentally healthy workplaces. Administered by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, the Mines and Petroleum and Industrial Relations Minister will determine the amount and duration of the grants that will be awarded by July 2022.

WA Mental Health Conference Call for Abstracts

The Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) invites presenters to submit their abstracts for engaging oral presentations and workshops, to be delivered at the WA Mental health Conference 2022. Applications close Monday, 31 January 2022 at 3pm and should meet the criteria outlined in the application form and addresses the theme outcomes and stream principles.

NSW Mental Health Consumer Subcommittee 

Do you identify as a person living with mental health issues and have experience accessing NSW public mental health services? This paid opportunity is your chance to advocate on behalf of your community, influence systemic change, and ultimately improve public mental health services.
The NSW Ministry of Health is seeking expressions of interest for membership of the Consumer Subcommittee. The Consumer Subcommittee is tasked with advising the NSW Mental Health Program Council and NSW Ministry of Health on any issues that are of concern to people who access public mental health services in NSW. Training will be provided to the successful applicants as part of the induction process. Members will need to prepare for and attend quarterly meetings, either online or in person. You can view the eligibility criteria and Subcommittee responsibilities here. For questions and further information, please contact Peter Schmiedgen, Senior Policy Officer, BEING – Mental Health Consumers at 1300 234 640 or info@being.org.au. Applications close on 30 January 2022.

The ALIVE Lived-Experience National Priorities Survey has launched

If you are a someone who lives with ongoing distress, mental ill-health or you support someone who does, and would like to share your views, you’re invited to complete the Lived Experience (Consumer) and Carer Priorities for Mental Health Research survey. In this survey you will be asked to list your priorities for mental health research. You will also be asked some questions about yourself. This survey should take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

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