The Commission delivered on its purpose to provide independent robust policy advice and evidence on ways to improve Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system, and to act as a catalyst for change to achieve those improvements.
The last twelve months have been particularly challenging for Australians with the health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and prior to that the drought, floods and bushfires.
During this time, the Commission prioritised its resourcing to support the Australian Government response to the mental health and suicide prevention needs of Australians.
In January 2020, the Commission contributed advice to the development of the package to support the mental health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities, including first responders, affected by the bushfires. The Australian Government made a $76 million investment towards several initiatives to support the mental health needs of those affected.
In March 2020, the Commission contributed advice to the development of the Australian Government’s mental health response to COVID19. The Australian Government made a $74 million investment towards these mental health needs, together with an announcement that extended telehealth rebates under the Medical Benefits Scheme to mental health services.
The Commission launched #InThisTogether – a national online campaign which provided important mental health and wellbeing tips. The Commission worked closely with mental health organisations across the country and experts in the field to develop a set of practical tips to support mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May 2020, the Commission, with the Victorian and New South Wales governments, coordinated the rapid development of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan (the Plan), working collaboratively with all jurisdictions and with stakeholders and input from mental health sector leaders. The Australian Government made an additional $48.1 million investment in support of the priority actions. All nine jurisdictions have committed to the Plan’s actions for addressing the mental health and wellbeing needs of the Australian community during and in the recovery phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout 2019-20, the Commission continued to monitor and report, delivering the National Report 2019 in September 2019. It made a number of recommendations regarding the key mental health reforms and other key mental health and suicide prevention issues. The Fifth Plan 2019 Progress Report detailed the progress of the Fifth Plan reform against the performance indicators and actions in the Fifth Plan. It was delivered to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council in January 2020. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, 2019: The consumer and carer perspective was published in September 2019.
Progress continued on Vision 2030 in 2019-20, starting with Connections from July to September 2019 and the draft Blueprint being delivered to the Minister for Health in December 2019, subject to ongoing consultation. The Roadmap is being developed and will identify specific policies, programs, investments and requirements to enable sustainable change, moving from the current state to the system proposed in the Blueprint. It will be delivered to the Minister for Health in December 2020.
The Commission also continued to deliver planned work, including carrying on consultation and engagement activities online rather than in person as a result of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a slight delay for some projects and the Commission formally sought an extension for the delivery of the draft National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy – now to be delivered in December 2020.