‘We need a new approach to mental health.’

mental health depression sad woman pharmacist pharmacist counselling depressed

The Victorian Government has announced the Terms of Reference for its Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which have been welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild

The Terms of Reference have been devised after consultation with the experts in the mental health sector and the community.

The Government held more than 20 round tables across the state to hear from experts and from Victorians who have lived experiences of mental health issues.

More than 8,000 Victorians made a submission online to help shape the terms of reference, which include:

  • How to most effectively prevent mental illness and suicide.
  • How to deliver the best mental health outcomes and help Victorians navigate the system.
  • How to best support the needs of family members and carers of people living with mental illness.
  • How to improve outcomes for those in the community at greater risk of experiencing poor mental health.
  • How to best support people living with mental illness and problematic alcohol and drug use.

“One in five Victorians will experience mental illness this year, and too many of those will lose their lives to suicide,” said Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley.

“We need a new approach to mental health, and a Royal Commission will help deliver a new system.”

The Royal Commission, which will be the first of its kind in Australia, will address the “undeniable recognition that the current system is under strain and in need of reform,” the Pharmacy Guild said.

The Guild said it strongly applauds the Commission, saying it demonstrated the Andrews Government’s ongoing commitment to improving health outcomes across the state.

“This is an important and very welcome commitment to addressing the anguish, pain, chronic disability and death that is resulting from mental health issues far too frequently across our community,” said Pharmacy Guild Victorian Branch president Anthony Tassone.

“Pharmacists are an increasingly important part of our community’s response to mental health issues. As medicine experts, pharmacists also have a vital role in providing advice to people on medications to help manage mental health conditions such as depression.

“Clearly pharmacists have a relationship with their patients and they get to know them very well over time,” Mr Tassone said.

“Being able to walk in off the street and speak to a health professional who understands the issues and who can provide advice or referral is very important.”

The Andrews Government also announced that it has appointed respected public policy expert Penny Armytage as the Chair of the Royal Commission.

Ms Armytage will be joined by Associate Professor Alex Cockram, Professor Allan Fels AO and Professor Bernadette McSherry as the Commissioners who will lead the landmark inquiry.

Ms Armytage has played a leading role in major health and human service sector reform. She has most recently served as the Chair of the Transport Accident Commission and the President of Berry Street.

Associate Professor Cockram has 30 years’ experience in health, including clinical and academic experience. She is an Associate Professor in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry and a former Chief Executive Officer at Western Health.

Professor Fels is the former Chair of the National Mental Health Commission and a leading Australian economist and lawyer best known for his role as Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Professor McSherry is an internationally-recognised legal academic in the fields of criminal law and mental health law, and President of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.

The Guild said it looks forward to making a contribution to a broad-ranging consideration of “how our society is responding to mental health issues and how we can do better”.

The Commission will deliver a preliminary report by November 30 2019 and a final report in October 2020.

Australians will have opportunities to share their experiences and ideas on improving the mental health system in Victoria as part of the Royal Commission and can register at www.engage.vic.gov.au.

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