Victorian Royal Commission into the Mental Health System

The Victorian Royal Commission into the Mental Health System delivered its final report on 3 February 2021 and it was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on 2 March 2021.  The report is available here.

The Commission made 65 recommendations to transform Victoria’s mental health system, including earlier intervention, community-based care and services, support for families and carers and ‘drop-in’ and crisis respite facilities.   The Victorian Government has accepted every recommendation.

The report acknowledges that collaboration across governments and sectors such as education and justice, workplaces and social networks, is particularly important for suicide prevention, because multiple factors are associated with suicide.  It is known that the appropriate support of an individual following a suicide attempt can save a life. 

To support people experiencing suicidal behaviour there are a number of recommendations of relevance to the rail industry: 

  • training in appropriate responses for members of workforces likely to come in contact with people experiencing suicidal behaviour;
  • the provision of free, online evidence-informed ‘community gatekeeper training’ for Victorians to develop suicide awareness and prevention skills;
  • enabling Aboriginal people to design culturally safe ‘community gatekeeper training’ for Aboriginal people;
  • aftercare services for specific groups of people at risk of experiencing suicidal behaviour and
  • the development of an intensive 14-day support program for adults who are experiencing psychological distress, modelled on Scotland’s Distress Brief Intervention program.

There were also several specific recommendations for establishing mentally healthy workplaces.  Employers are encouraged to commit to creating mentally healthy workplaces including addressing workplace barriers to good mental health, promoting inclusive workplaces that are free from stigma and discrimination, and support people experiencing mental illness at work.  The new Mental Health and Wellbeing Victorian Cabinet Subcommittee is looking to sponsor industry-based trials to demonstrate how to adapt and implement comprehensive mentally healthy workplace approaches in an industry context.  The Commission also recommended the government facilitate Victorian industries and businesses to invest in evidence-informed workplace suicide prevention and response programs, with an initial focus on forming partnerships with high-risk industries.

The Commission recommends a number of governance changes including the establishment of a Suicide Prevention and Response Office, led by a State Suicide Prevention and Response Adviser, the establishment of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Cabinet subcommittee Chaired by the Premier, a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act, a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission as an independent statutory authority and a new Interdepartmental Committee on Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion.