The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has released its Final Report which contains five volumes and 65 recommendations.
The Commission’s vision is for a mental health and wellbeing system that adapts and responds to the needs of all Victorians. This includes supporting people in rural and regional Victoria with improved access to high-quality services.
In its interim report, the Commission found in rural and regional communities:
- Mental health stigma can be felt acutely.
- Geographical barriers, such as location of services, extended travel times, increased travel costs and the need to take time off work, can contribute to limited help-seeking behaviours.
- The current mental health system can be difficult to navigate (including identifying and accessing appropriate services) for rural and regional consumers, families and carers.
- Local services are limited and do not always meet the needs of rural and regional community members.
To support the mental health and wellbeing of people in rural and regional Victoria the commission has made the following specific recommendations:
- Recommendation 39: Support the mental health and wellbeing of people in rural and regional Victoria buy providing additional resources to deliver services to small or geographically isolated rural communities. By the end of 2022, two new digital service delivery initiatives that meet the needs of local communities will be trialled in rural and regional areas.
- Recommendation 40: Increase the mental health and wellbeing workforce in rural and regional areas by establishing an incentive scheme to attract and retain mental health service workers.
The Commission’s reforms will support rural and regional communities to have better access to specialist treatment, care and support for farming communities that is closer to home. Overall, a more integrated, networked approach to service delivery will ensure people in rural and regional Victoria have more appropriate and better connected mental health and wellbeing care and support.
Wherever possible, people from rural and regional communities, regardless of their level of need, will be supported to receive services through Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Services, close to their support networks. People will be able access these services either directly or via referral.
Prevention, Better Access and Co-Design
The recommendations from the Royal Commission have a strong prevention focus and this extends to rural and regional areas.
Community collectives will be set up in each of the state’s 79 local government areas, bringing community members and community leaders together to drive social connection and inclusion efforts.
These collectives will work with communities to identify local challenges and opportunities, and take action to support the mental health and wellbeing of their communities. Funding will be provided to these collectives each year for ongoing community-led initiatives. This funding will also support evaluation to ensure that these initiatives are effective.
Within each local government area, networked services will be coordinated to help people living with mental illness who need ongoing intensive treatment, care and support.
Crisis support will be based on compassion and respect. For those in crisis, police and ambulance callouts and visits to emergency departments won’t be the only options. A range of new consumer-led, safe spaces will be available for people experiencing different levels of distress or crisis. These will be provided in compassionate settings where people can stay safe and access support.
Government funding for mental health will reflect the costs of delivering high-quality services in rural and regional areas of Victoria.
People from across farming communities (including young people, people with lived experience and carers), will be involved in co designing quality, accessible and relevant resources, prevention programs and support initiatives.
The circumstances and needs of Victorians living in rural and regional locations are diverse, but common experiences can affect the mental health and wellbeing of people living in these communities.
The future mental health and wellbeing system recognises that most people have relationships of care and support, and that these relationships play an important role in wellbeing and recovery. Involving families, carers and supporters in care and recovery will become standard practice for all services.
Farming communities are made up of a diverse range of people, including young and older people, families, people living with disabilities, people from different cultural backgrounds (who may not speak English as their first language), Aboriginal people and people identifying as LGBTQI+. The new mental health system will provide better support for the mental health and wellbeing of these diverse groups.
A new independent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission will be set up to make sure the Victorian Government is held to account for the performance of the mental health and wellbeing system and make sure the Royal Commission’s recommendations are carried out. The new Commission will take on responsibility for responding to complaints and initiating inquiries.
The mental health and wellbeing system will be designed around eight regions across Victoria. New Regional Mental Health and Wellbeing Boards will be introduced over time. This will make sure that mental health and wellbeing services are designed to meet local community needs and improve local community outcomes. This will also result in better integration of services.
Read the 65 recommendations from the final report and the 9 recommendations from the interim report.
Download Final Report
Watch our acting director, Dr Alison Kennedy, discuss the impact of the report findings with three special guests.