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Bipartisan support is essential for Victoria’s mental health system success

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SANE Australia welcomes the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, and says bipartisan support is vital if the report recommendations are to be implemented successfully and make a difference to people living with complex mental health needs.

SANE provides phone and online counselling, peer support and online forums for people with a lived experience of complex mental health needs, their friends and family members.

Rachel Green is SANE Australia’s new CEO and said Victoria’s mental health sector is counting on all sides of government to ensure changes are made as a matter of urgency and there are no roadblocks to progressing implementation.

“With the release of this report we have a unique opportunity to make significant changes to our mental health system here in Victoria and ensure people with complex mental health issues including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, as well as their families and people who support them, can access the right treatment at the right time”, Green said.

Great work has been done in the mental health sector to support people experiencing higher prevalence mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. However, there is a critical need for genuine reform that supports people with complex mental health needs who require a wide range of clinical and psychosocial supports, including supports beyond the health system.

We are pleased with the recommendations to rebalance the system so that more services will be delivered in community settings, and extend beyond a health response to a more holistic approach to good mental health and wellbeing across the community. We look forward to offering our unique expertise gained from 35 years’ experience to ensure that implementation is genuinely inclusive of people with complex mental health needs.

“We anticipate that the Victorian Government will provide the much-needed funding to achieve the Royal Commission’s ambitious vision, as Premier Andrews has committed to implement all of the Royal Commission’s recommendations,” Green said.

Sandy Jeffs OAM is an award-winning author, poet and SANE Peer Ambassador. She has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and shared her lived experience as a witness before the Royal Commission. Sandy is hopeful that the report findings and recommendations will help mental health issues to be front and centre of people’s minds, and encourage people needing mental health care to be kept out of the psychiatric system.

“I would love to see a system of psychiatric care where people have holistic healing and aren’t shackled to the hell holes that psychiatric wards have become,” said Jeffs.

“The best way to do this is to give people hope, purpose and meaning in their life. You can do this through ensuring the right housing, giving them creative things to do, creative therapies and creative healing.” Jeffs added. “It’s also important to help people deal with the emotional distress that comes with a mental health diagnosis, and deal with it in the most appropriate way, in their most appropriate situation.”

SANE’s Anne Deveson Research Centre recently launched the National Stigma Report Card, showing that fear of stigma and discrimination can lead people living with complex mental health needs to withdraw from those closest to them, not enter into relationships, stop seeking employment, not pursue educational opportunities and participate less in the community. The National Stigma Report Card is referenced in the Final Report – the Royal Commission has listened to the voices of people who contributed to the Our Turn to Speak survey.

“Through the National Stigma Report Card we have heard that the world is a very difficult place for people living with complex mental health needs. But it shouldn’t be this way. The people of Victoria deserve action and change. We welcome the Royal Commission’s specific recommendations to address stigma and discrimination through the proposed new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission,” Green said.

SANE Australia plays an important role in championing the voices of lived experience and that of family members supporting people with complex mental health needs. We look forward to working with the Victorian government to make sure these reforms come to fruition and that implementation is inclusive of people with complex mental health needs.

In addition to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, Rachel is available for comment on a range of issue including:

  • The Productivity Commission Mental Health Inquiry report
  • The gap in early intervention for people with complex mental health needs
  • Mental health services needs in regional, rural and remote communities.
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