Recommendation 1 of 10 from “A Contributing Life: the 2012 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention”

The Commission’s big picture case for change identifies what governments and communities must do and keep doing.

We have four priority areas for action.

We will not see real change unless the following four areas become part of everyday business.

We have also set out where action must start with our ten specific recommendations for 2012.

1. Mental health must be a high national priority for all governments and the community

Mental health must be the business of the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers

Reform will wither on the vine without ongoing support and oversight by every government across Australia when they come together to discuss and agree on matters of national importance as the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). It is imperative that mental health continues to have the direct support of the Prime Minister and Premiers and Chief Ministers. Cross-government oversight is vital. Without links between housing, employment, education, health, family and child support, justice and corrections we will never give people the best chance of recovering and living contributing lives.

Mental health and wellbeing must not be pushed aside by other priorities or become a casualty because money is tight. In fact, money will be wasted if we take our eye off the ball. It’s an investment now for all our futures.

We must get a proper understanding of the value of good mental health to drive reform

There is bipartisan support for increasing Australia’s productivity and reducing unnecessary costs that result from mental health being dealt with ineffectively in the community, service systems and in the workplace.

There has been some work on the cost of mental illness. There is still much to be done to demonstrate the value of good mental health.

The Australian Government must ask the Productivity Commission to work in partnership with us to report on the economic and productivity impacts of mental ill health and suicide in Australia and the value of good mental health. This will provide an accurate and credible picture of the benefits from preventing mental illness and promoting mental health, and the productivity from increasing participation, promoting recovery oriented approaches and investing in properly evaluated services.

The value of good mental health to each person, the community and the wider population all affect the broader workings of our society.

Governments must meet their existing commitments

Commitments have already been made by all Australian Governments through COAG and the United Nations1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the public expects them to be delivered. These include the following:

  • increasing access and quality of services to meet gaps
  • including people with a lived experience of mental health issues, families and supporters in planning, design and evaluating policy and services
  • recognising the role that non-government organisations play, and
  • not discharging people with mental illness from hospital or other facilities into homelessness.

It is not acceptable that it can take years to get agreement or simply to report progress on measures endorsed by all Australian Governments.

The mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples needs to be included as one of our national priorities

All governments have given a strong commitment in various COAG agreements to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples an equal chance to have a fully contributing life.6 We stand together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to say we must overcome the compounding cycles of disadvantage and poor social conditions to improve resilience, physical and mental health.

In this Report Card we feature Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing, and show the very powerful impact that families and communities can and do have.