CEO Update: There is a simple solution, and it's always wrong

There is a simple solution, and it’s always wrong

“Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

So wrote H. L. Mencken, the twentieth-century American journalist, satirist, social critic, cynic, and freethinker. He is often misquoted in the form:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

This week we received another reminder about the complexity of the challenges that we face in trying to improve mental health and prevent suicide.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its first pilot report entitled Psychosocial risk factors for coroner-referred deaths in Australia, 2017.

Ahead of the release, our friends at Mindframe produced an excellent summary of the new data, and some guidance, particularly for the media, on reporting that data in a way that is safe and responsible. You can find the summary here

The report documents the prevalence of psychosocial risk factors in suicide deaths examined by Coroners across the country. And as the abstract for the report succinctly puts it: “The circumstances relating to suicide… are complex.”

It finds a high prevalence of psychosocial risk factors like:

  • Personal history of self-harm
  • Disruption of family by separation and divorce
  • Problems in relationship with spouse or partner
  • Other problems relating to economic circumstances
  • Limitation of activities due to disability or other chronic health condition

With some important variations, these risk factors appear across gender and age.

Responding to the release of the data, and ahead of the Suicide Prevention Australia National Conference in Melbourne next week, SPA CEO Nieves Murray said:

“It is important to note that coronial data is not homogenous across Australia. Suicide Prevention Australia has previously called for a focus on this issue in order to get a clearer picture around risk factors associated with suicide. This information is a good start but we need to move forward with a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention and a refinement of data so that the government and the sector can make better decisions around planning.”

The mental health and suicide prevention sectors are frequently criticised for advocating solutions that are diverse and fragmented.

Governments are frequently under pressure to announce their support for “the solution”.

Make the announcement, cut the ribbon, count the dollars, post the picture to social media, and move on. Preferably “solving the problem” until the next election comes around.

But it is just not that simple.

The Productivity Commission inquiry into Mental Health is one of the biggest inquiries in the Productivity Commission’s history. They have received more than 500 submissions and have conducted public consultations and specialist meetings across the country.

If they have listened carefully, they will have learned that the solution to improving Australia’s mental health and reducing Australia’s suicide rate will be long and complicated.  

There is no simple solution to addressing complex psychosocial factors, many of which we are only beginning to recognise, let alone understand. 

There is no simple solution, but I remain hopeful that this report, and the Productivity Commission Inquiry, and the work you are doing every day, are all steps towards finding an effective, albeit complicated, one.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer


Mental Health News

Greens bill to increase Newstart will be debated in Senate next week

The Australian Greens bill to increase Newstart, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Ending the Poverty Trap) Bill 2018 will be debated in the Senate next week in private members time. “It is untenable that people on Newstart continue to live in poverty, the Government should be moving immediately to address the appalling low rate of Newstart. Unfortunately they are not so the Greens will”, said Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services.

 Read more

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Mental Health Services Report

Mental health services in Australia (MHSA) provides a picture of the national response of the health and welfare service system to the mental health care needs of Australians. MHSA is updated progressively throughout each year as data becomes available.

Read More

Psychosocial risk factors as they relate to coroner-referred deaths in Australia

The ABS has undertaken a pilot study (referenced above) to enhance the national Causes of Death dataset by capturing information on psychosocial risk factors for deaths referred to a coroner in the 2017 reference period.

Read More  

New website now live

The new launched this week. The new website has been developed through comprehensive research and testing with Department of Health stakeholders. This week and over the next 12 months you can search the new website to find the content you want to link to and update your links.You will be advised before the old website is switched off.

Read More



On Tuesday, I will be meeting with the NMHCCF Co-Chairs. 

On Wednesday morning Lachlan Searle, Director - External Relations will be attending an Orygen breakfast event with guest speaker Alastair Campbell in Melbourne. Also on Wednesday, Harry Lovelock, Director - Policy and Projects and I will be hosting the next National Disability and Carers Alliance face to face meeting in Canberra. 

On Thursday, I will be up at Parliament House for post election meetings, including with Minister Hunt. 


Member Profiles

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) is the peak professional mental health nursing organisation and the recognised credentialing body for mental health nurses in Australia. It seeks to represent the profession at all levels of government and across all health service sectors. In addition, the ACMHN sets standards for practice, supports mental health nursing research and provides a forum for collegial support, networking and ongoing professional development for its members. Importantly, the ACMHN also works to promote public confidence in and professional recognition of mental health nursing.
Website - Facebook - Twitter -

Centacare Catholic Family Services strive to support people in the community who have been marginalised and who are experiencing hardships and challenges in their lives. For the past 74 years, Centacare has worked to help people reach their full potential so they can participate in the community, regardless of their circumstances. Today this commitment underpins the 80 community services they deliver in 35 sites across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, in metropolitan and regional South Australia.
Website - Facebook - Twitter -



Head to Health survey now open

Head to Health are always looking for ways to improve people’s experience. They would love to hear from you! The survey is anonymous and takes anywhere from 2-10 minutes to complete (depending on how much detail you want to provide). They’re keen to learn about: 

Your experience using Head to Health
Any features, services or topics you would like to see on Head to Health
If you know of anyone else who might have recent experience with Head to Health, please send the link on. The more the merrier!

Complete the survey now.

Read more

AASW Conference 2019

The AASW Conference 2019 will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, South Australia from 7-9 November 2019. Registration and accommodation bookings for the conference are open. Early bird closes 7 August.

Keynote speaker: Debbie Kilroy. After her own release from prison in 1992, Debbie established Sisters Inside to fight for the human rights of women in prison and to address gaps in services available to women and their children. Since then, Debbie has completed tertiary qualifications in social work, forensic mental health and law. Debbie is the first and only former prisoner to be admitted as a legal practitioner in Australia. Debbie is well-placed to speak at our conference dinner on Challenging Inequality: Working together for a just society.

Read more

R U OK? Trust the Signs Tour

Each year we embark on a nationwide tour of the country visiting every state and territory. Our theme for 2019 is to encourage Australians to ‘Trust the Signs’ when they know someone might be struggling with life (key messages and research attached for those interested). 

Launching on the Central Coast last week, we will be travel over 14,000km holding 24 community engagement events before reaching Sydney on R U OK?Day (Thursday 12 September). Importantly, each event highlights local mental health support services, volunteer organisations and Suicide Prevention Networks ensuring those attending are aware of the existing services available in their community for the times an R U OK? conversation is too big for friends and family alone. 

Read more

Practical Service Mapping for Health Policy and Planning 

We all know a picture tells a thousand words. Mapping health care services provides visual evidence and insight to support decision making around healthcare. This half-day course will focus on the practical application of mapping health care services for health care planners, policy makers, and decision makers. 
Who should attend?

  • Primary Health Network, Local Health District and state and federal government policy decision makers and planners
  • Non-Government and Community sector professionals working in health and social services
  • University academic staff, professional staff and students

Venue: Henderson Room, Building 63, Eggleston Road, ANU, Acton
Standard Registration Fee: $110 incl. GST 

Registration is essential for this event, and includes morning tea.

Expressions of Interest - Adelaide PHN Board Directors

Adelaide Primary Health Network (PHN) has opened an Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for two Board appointed Directors - General Practitioner (GP) Director and Non-GP Director. 
Shortlisted applicants will be reviewed by our nominations subcommittee, with the successful candidates being ratified by our board and membership at our Annual General Meeting in October 2019.

The positions will attract remuneration in recognition of the Director’s time and expertise. 

Applications due by 5.00pm, Friday 26 July 2019.

Mental Health First Aid Course - August session

The Standard MHFA course teaches adults (18+) how to provide initial support to adults who are developing a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis, as well as learning the signs and symptoms of common and disabling mental health conditions, where and how to get professional help, what sort of support has been shown effective, and how to provide first aid in a mental health crisis. 
Participants will learn the signs and symptoms of a variety of mental health problems, and about mental health crisis situations. 
Where: Suite J, 450 Chapel Street, South Yarra
When: Every 3rd Monday and Tuesday of the month
Course fees: $190 per person 

Book here

Express interest in working with the Australian Digital Health Agency as a Consumer Advisor

The Agency wishes to advise the closing date for Consumer Advisor applications has been extended to Close of Business (5pm AEST) Friday, 2 August.

Apply here. Further information, including the selection criteria, can be found here.




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