Across two days in March, the Life in Mind team attended the Mental Health Victoria 'Putting It All Together' Symposium. In light of the release of several significant reviews into mental health and suicide prevention, this symposium included talks and panel discussions from many key experts dissecting the major reports set to shape mental health reform in the future.
The focus of Day 1 was the Victorian Reforms and included in-depth discussions of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.
Day 2 was centred on National Reform, with the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, Vision 2030, National Suicide Prevention Strategy and the National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy being the focus of discussions. Keynote speakers included Professor Stephen King, Presiding Commissioner of the Productivity Commission Inquiry; Christine Morgan, CEO of National Mental Health Commission and National Suicide Prevention Adviser; and Professor Patrick McGorry AO, Executive Director of Orygen.
Some critical themes for reform emerged from the discussions around accessibility, mentally healthy workplaces, increasing the capacity of our mental health workforce and lived experience, amongst others.
One of the significant recommendations that echoed throughout the presentations was the importance of lived experience knowledge in driving reform, research and services.
In her keynote speech, Christine Morgan emphasised the importance of embedding lived experience within the mental health and suicide prevention system.
"It is absolutely not appropriate that we just use lived experience to illustrate points that the experts want to make. We must embed lived experience. I am so firm in that view of mental health because, as we all know, our mental health must be expressed from an individual perspective. Unless we can embed that approach in our system and embrace that as part of reform, we will be doing a band-aid approach."
Also highlighted across the two days was the need for more significant investment in prevention and early intervention. There was a growing recognition of the social, community and economic benefit of prevention and promotion initiatives to reduce mental ill-health.
Several speakers also stressed the need for a whole-of-government, integrated and coordinated approach. There was agreement that future reform must involve state and federal coordination and integration across different portfolios, including education, housing, justice, and health.
In addressing these points, Professor Stephen King stated:
"Unsurprisingly, one of our core recommendations is that those governments need to sit down and create a new agreement, a new strategy. Make sure they work out who's responsible for what and also who pays for what, so that we can move forward because that is going to be a foundation to getting these reforms in place."
A number of the speakers addressed the need for better research, evaluation of outcomes and accountability for mental health and suicide prevention services. Professor Patrick McGorry AO highlighted the need for greater investment in research and innovation.