National mental health report 2013

Ongoing consumer and carer developments

Page last updated: 2013

The above indicators suggest that while some progress has been made in providing formal mechanisms for consumer and carer participation, a great deal remains to be done. The Fourth National Mental Health Plan reiterates the importance of continuing initiatives to build mental health service systems that are truly consumer and carer responsive.

Over and above this, there is a question about whether the kind of indicators described above are focusing on the issues that are of concern to consumers and carers. In its first Report Card,28 the recently established National Mental Health Commission has identified and reported on six areas that stakeholders have indicated are important to consumers' ability to lead a contributing life. These are:

  • the physical health of people with mental illness
  • approaches to care which are inclusive of carers
  • access to timely, appropriate, high quality care
  • participation in employment and community activities
  • having a safe, stable and secure home and
  • preventing suicide.
These concerns extend the newer emphases that distinguish the Fourth National Mental Health Plan from its predecessors, particularly the focus on social inclusion and recovery themes. A number of the Fourth Plan indicators described in Part 2 of this report address these areas and aim to measure progress. The Australian National Mental Health Outcomes and Classification Network is also developing a new measure of social inclusion known as the Living in the Community Questionnaire (LCQ). Funded by the Australian Government, this measure focuses on the consumer's participation in various life domains (for example, employment, education, housing and social activities) and is being designed for use by state and territory mental health services as part of the current arrangements in place for the regular collection of standardised data on consumer outcomes. Routine collection of data from this measure will allow changes in consumers' levels of social inclusion to be systematically tracked.

There are also other broader developments designed to ensure that the participation of people with lived experience of mental illness is central to mental health reform. At the national level, Australian Government funding ($4 million over the period 2011 to 2016) was provided to establish a new mental health consumer-led peak body. The national mental health consumer organisation will involve diverse mental health consumer groups, organisations and individuals, and represent a wide cross‑section of experiences and views, in particular those views which are often under‑represented. The new organisation will work towards a shared vision so that a strong and consolidated consumer voice can contribute to more responsive and accountable mental health reform. This will include the work of the National Mental Health Commission that is assessing system performance, described above.

The new organisation is being auspiced by the Mental Health Council of Australia to ensure it has the best possible chance of long term success and sustainability. A Mental Health Consumer Reference Group is advising the Council on planning and implementation of the new organisation, to ensure the voices and views of consumers are front and centre in informing this project. The Council and the Consumer Reference Group are working together to establish a diverse and inclusive membership base and are arranging mechanisms to ensure mental health consumers are involved fully throughout the process. The ultimate aim is to have an independent organisation built upon strong organisational governance and sustainable structures.