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A call to action on mental health

Auditor General Reports are not usually considered must-reads. Dry, bureaucratic, lots of numbers…

But we must all read this one. Last month the Victorian Auditor General delivered a clear and direct wake-up call to the Victorian Government, on its failure to address the gaps in mental health services in Victoria.

“DHHS has done too little to address the imbalance between demand for, and supply of, mental health services in Victoria.”

On almost every key statistic in the report, Victoria went backwards:

  • More people with mental illness presented to emergency departments
  • More people were admitted to hospital for acute mental health care
  • More people were readmitted within 28 days of leaving hospital

The rate of suicide has remained relatively stable, but there will need to be significant change if we are to get close to our target of halving the rate of suicides by 2025.

Echoing long held concerns of many in the community sector, VAGO was critical of the Government’s 10-year mental health plan; citing its lack of actions and measurable targets and failure to demonstrate how we will address the growing demand for help.

“The lack of sufficient and appropriate system-level planning, investment, and monitoring over many years means the mental health system in Victoria lags significantly behind other jurisdictions in the available funding and  infrastructure, and the percentage of the population supported.”

For years, the community sector has been highlighting the workforce and funding challenges that make it impossible to help all the people that need it. Challenges like short-term contracts, insecure funding, workforce shortages and burnout. VAGO said:

“Real progress is unlikely within the life of the plan unless DHHS accelerates and directs effort towards the fundamentals: funding, workforce and capital infrastructure.”

It feels like a call to action. Victoria cannot keep doing what it has been doing; filling up hospital beds, reducing services, risking people’s lives.

The Royal Commission into Mental Health presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to promote a mentally healthy Victoria, and change the way we as a society support people experiencing mental health concerns. In the meantime, VCOSS is calling for emergency funding to save community mental health services affected by the transition to the NDIS, and stop the loss of some of our most experienced and valuable staff.