Friends stacking hands - priority issues to address in the Royal Commission into Mental health

Key points to the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health

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By Kim O’Neill, CEO, On the Line

The Victorian government has delivered on its pre-election promise to conduct a Royal Commission into mental health, beginning with a call for submissions to help shape the Terms of Reference. Over 8,000 individual submissions were received, testament to the need for, and urgency of, such a review. On the Line, along with many other organisations that operate in this field, has submitted a response that outlines just some of the areas that we consider to be priorities in this review.

You can read the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health – On the Line submission here, but some of the areas we highlighted as critically important included:

  • Adapting our current societal approach to mental health to include more preventative measures and look beyond the medical model to help people feel better.
  • Working to address the stigma surrounding mental health issues and encourage different kinds of help-seeking behaviours.
  • Improving access to mental health practitioners, support, and self-management opportunities for all people regardless of their geographic location; or their socioeconomic, mental or physical health, gender or any other minority status.
  • Understanding the role of loneliness in mental health issues and suicide, and the importance of strong relationships in prevention, support and treatment interventions.
  • Suicide prevention initiatives with a more holistic focus of social health and wellbeing.

Between this state-led review and the upcoming Federal Government Productivity Commission into Mental Health, it is fantastic to see a renewed focus on mental health and how we can better support individuals and the helping sector.

I really hope that this attention is accompanied by a determination to take into account the type of society we want to live in. The focus needs to be broader than the economic costs of mental health on our society, and increasing the productivity of people with a mental illness. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s recent inspiring speech at the World Economic Forum embodies the change in worldview that I’d like to see – making happiness, empathy, wellbeing and living standards measures priorities in how we judge ourselves as a society. Economic measures have their place, but fail to recognise what’s most important – are we creating a better society in which to live?

Let’s use the reviews of the mental health system to reframe mental health, look at it in a new way, a more holistic way. We need to invest in social health and programs that address social issues like loneliness, and support people to learn how to have positive relationships with themselves, their loved ones and the communities in which they live.  We all need to learn about how our minds work and give people the skills to deal with life’s ups and downs. So when we have unhealthy mental states (self-loathing, judgements of self and others) we have the skills and means to restore our own positive states of mind.

I’d like to see a society and services built around the greatness in each of us. Let’s create a society that understands and acknowledges that life will have difficulties, pain and suffering and that at some stage in our lives some of us are going to need support. Let’s offer those that need it access to free counselling, meditation and mindfulness training, so we are all better able to build self-awareness, resilience and understand ourselves better.

Most importantly of all, let’s build our ability to better connect with and support each other. The power of human connection is at the heart of our social health approach.  Strong, nurturing and caring relationships have the power to prevent everyday challenges from becoming more concerning issues. It’s time we empower each other to be the best support possible for the people we care about. Let’s take the opportunity that this renewed focus on mental health brings to make social health a frontline strategy in helping protect and care for each other.