Transformational change needed in Victoria’s mental health system

Transformational change needed in Victoria’s mental health system

Friday, 29 November 2019

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has released its interim report, finding the current approach is failing people, causing trauma and urgent change is required.

We welcome the interim report as an important step towards creating a system that better supports people’s choices and recovery.

Responding to the report, Louise Glanville, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) CEO said, ‘The report rightly recognises that the current approach is failing people, their dignity is often disregarded, and transformational change is required.’

Every day our advocates and lawyers across VLA’s criminal, family and civil law practice see the impact mental health issues can have on someone’s ability to live well in the community in the way that works for them.

‘We are pleased to see the royal commission acknowledge the importance of recovery, and its recognition that the current system can cause of exacerbate trauma,’ said Louise.

‘We also welcome the recognition that different groups in the community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, need tailored and culturally safe services.’

Importantly, the commission has expressed concern about the rates of compulsory treatment and restrictive practices in Victoria, and it will consider this crucial issue in detail in the next stages of its work.

We know providing legal and non-legal advocacy for people facing compulsory treatment is vital to ensuring they understand their rights and can have a say in their treatment.

This was also recently recognised by the Productivity Commission in its draft report on mental health in Australia.

We also congratulate the royal commission for its commitment to being informed by people with a direct experience of mental health issues, and the emphasis it has placed on consumer leadership, including for new services to be designed and delivered by people with lived experience.

‘All systems and services have so much to learn from people with that direct experience – the royal commissioners have recognised this in their interim report, and we encourage them to continue with this focus,’ said Louise.

‘We also welcome the royal commission’s recognition that there needs to be a greater focus on prevention and early intervention services in the community, so people don’t reach the crisis point which sees them admitted to hospital or entering the criminal justice system.’

‘With the interim report now released we look forward to assisting the royal commission to develop specific recommendations to help more people access early assistance and integrated support in the community.’

Victoria’s mental health system should also recognise that people have overlapping health, family, housing, justice and social issues, and people need more access to community-based therapeutic programs which support them to live well in the community.

In 2018–19, IMHA provided nearly 25,000 services to people receiving or facing compulsory mental health treatment.

Approximately 25,000 people, representing over a quarter of those Victoria Legal Aid assists each year disclose a mental health issue or disability.

‘Almost everyone in Victoria would know someone who has had a mental health issue, and we all have a role to play in transforming the system,’ said Louise.

More information

Read the interim report from the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.

Read more about VLA's submission to the royal commission – Roads to Recovery: Building a better system for people experiencing mental health issues in Victoria.

Read more about your rights and the law.