House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Questions without Notice

Mental Health

2:48 pm

Photo of Laura SmythLaura Smyth (La Trobe, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. Today the National Mental Health Commission launched the first ever national report card on mental health and suicide prevention, which delivered on the government's election commitment. Why did the government establish the Mental Health Commission, and why is the report card important to ongoing improvement?

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for La Trobe for her question. In the lead up to the last election the Prime Minister committed that building a modern mental health system would be a priority for this term of government and that we would introduce a new annual report card on mental health and on suicide prevention—a responsibility to the new National Mental Health Commission, which we created earlier this year as part of the government's $2.2 billion mental health reform plan.

Today, Professor Allan Fels, the chair of the commission, delivered the first of those annual reports. It is very different to the traditional reports on mental health, which have tended to count things such as hospital beds and doctors and nurses in the health system. While these are undoubtedly important things, this report shifts the focus to telling us how Australia's mental health services are performing from the perspective of people actually using them. The report tracks the degree to which we are supporting those Australians to lead a 'contributing life', to use the language of the Mental Health Commission. Importantly also, the commission does not just focus on the health system; it also looks at those other things that determine the degree to which these Australians are able to live a contributing life—stable housing and a chance of a job, just to name a couple.

In broad terms the commission's report reinforces what I and others in the government have been saying for some time now: while there is much that we are going to expand and improve mental health services, there is still much for us to do. The report card reinforces, for example, the importance of the government's investment in effective, community-based responses to suicide risk. It also urges all of us to focus more on the physical health needs of Australians living with mental illness, in particular, and on their much lower life expectancy. There are also important messages for state governments around the delivery of their long-standing commitments to drive down rates of seclusion and physical restraint in their hospital systems and to prevent situations where Australians with mental illness are discharged from those same hospitals into a situation of homelessness.

The commission intends to build on this report with an even greater focus in future years on the experiences and the views of those who actually use the system—views that will be a valuable guide as the government continues to implement our plan to build a modern mental health system. I am very pleased that the report has already received such strong community and media attention. On behalf of the government—and, I am sure, on behalf of the Prime Minister—I extend my thanks to Professor Fels and the other commissioners for their dedication to this task and for their hard work.