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Overview

The National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) is an executive agency under the Public Service Act 1999 and a non-corporate Commonwealth Entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Commission is part of the federal Minister for Health’s portfolio and reports directly to the Minister for Health. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the accountable authority under the Public Governance, Performance, and Accountability Act 2013 and is responsible for the governance and performance of the Commission. The Commission’s Advisory Board includes a Chair and a number of Mental Health Commissioners (as determined by the Minister from time to time), including the CEO.

The Commission’s purpose is to provide 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 through monitoring and reporting on investment in mental health and suicide prevention initiatives and ongoing engagement with stakeholders across the mental health and related sectors. Our overarching aim is to ensure that all Australians are able to lead a full and contributing life.

The Commission’s budgeted outcome is to provide expert advice to the Australian Government and cross-sectoral leadership on the policy, programs, services and systems that support mental health in Australia, including through administering the Annual National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, undertaking performance monitoring and reporting and engaging consumers and carers.[1]

The Commission is independent from the agencies that fund and deliver mental health and suicide prevention policy and services. Through collaboration and engagement it incorporates information and data from a broad range of sources, both inside and outside the traditional health or mental health areas across sectors, jurisdictions and communities; and nationally and internationally to provide evidence based reports and advice that represent diverse perspectives and are connected to community need.

Through its reach and impact the Commission aims to create increased accountability and transparency in the mental health and suicide prevention system, provide leadership to support strengthening the system to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of the community, and support the national prominence of mental health and wellbeing.

The Commission works with stakeholders to ensure reforms are collectively owned and actioned. It acknowledges that engaging stakeholders and facilitating meaningful participation is essential to achieving transformational change.

In particular it seeks to engage with those with a lived experience of mental health issues, including carers and other support people, in all areas of its work. The Commission affirms the right of all people to participate in decisions that affect their care and to determine the conditions that enable them to live contributing lives. Diverse and genuine engagement with those with lived experience adds value to decision-making by providing direct knowledge about the actual needs of the community, resulting in better targeted and more responsive services and initiatives.

The Commission applies the Contributing Life framework to its work – a whole-of-person, whole-of-system, whole-of-life approach to mental health and wellbeing. A contributing life can mean many things. It can mean a fulfilling life enriched with close connections to family and friends; good health and wellbeing to allow those connections to be enjoyed; having something to do each day that provides meaning and purpose – whether it be a job, supporting others or volunteering; and a home to live in, free from financial stress and uncertainty. In short, it means thriving, not just surviving.

The Commission works to support individuals to: live a contributing life; have equitable opportunity; have the best possible mental health and wellbeing; participate in community, education and employment; have knowledge, assurance and respect; and be able to contribute to socially and economically.

Indigenous people have significantly higher rates of mental distress, trauma, suicide and intentional self-harm, as well as exposure to risk factors such as stressful life events, family breakdown, unemployment, racism, discrimination, imprisonment, crime victimisation and alcohol and substance misuse. The mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is a priority across all the Commission’s work. It is committed to building on its close working relationship with First Nations leaders and communities to ensure that mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention responses in the mental health reform agenda are informed and led by their input and guidance.

The Chair and Commissioners, who bring a range of expertise and perspectives, provide advice and input on the strategic direction which reflects the evidence they gather from the community, research and data. They are committed to giving a voice to the experiences of people living with mental health difficulties or suicide risk and their families and support people.

[1] Portfolio Budget Statements Program 1.1 2019-20, Health Portfolio Budget Statements, p.373