By Evelyn Leckie
THE Royal Commission in Victoria’s Mental Health System will start its first round of community consultations at Whittlesea on Friday, calling for people with mental illness and their carers to have their voices heard.
It’s the first Royal Commission of its kind in Australia, led by chairwoman Penny Armytage, and supported by commissioners Professor Bernadette McSherry, Professor Allan Fels and Dr Aleck Cockram.
The Royal Commission will help Victorians understand the shortcomings in the current system and provide practical recommendations so people can get the services they need.
“To develop our findings and recommendations, we will engage widely with Victorian communities and encourage people to share their experiences and suggestions,” Ms Armytage said.
“This will be through a range of ways including community forums, dedicated discussions for people living with mental illness, their families or carers, roundtable sessions on local issues, written submissions, research and public hearings.
”City of Whittlesea hosted a community futures forum that highlighted the service gaps in mental health services in the municipality compared to other areas of Melbourne.
“City of Whittlesea has a relatively high proportion of vulnerable groups at risk of poor mental health outcomes including women in the perinatal period, women who experience family violence and Aboriginal people,” Mayor Lawrie Cox said.
“The City of Whittlesea has completed a detailed analysis of the mental health service needs in our community and will be presenting that along with a submission to the Royal Commission.”
Whittlesea Men’s Shed secretary Peter Bettes their members were delighted to hear the consultations are starting in Whittlesea.
“It’s important to place an emphasis on mental health – we’ve been helping one of our members through a hard time – we keep getting 1800 numbers to ring. There’s a long wait for assistance,” he said.
Following the Whittlesea session, further community consultations will be in Pakenham, Hamilton, Geelong, Ballarat, Mildura, Swan Hill and many other towns in Victoria.
Community consultations will also take place in Seymour on May 14.
State Government have committed to every one of the commission’s recommendations being accepted.Victoria spends the least per person on mental health compared to other states – 13 per cent below the national average.
Access to mental health services is just under 40 per cent below the national average.
Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said one in five Victorians would experience mental illness this year, and too many of those would lose their lives to suicide.
“We need a new approach to mental health and a Royal Commission will help deliver a new system,” Mr Foley said.
“We need to hear from all the experts in the system, especially people with mental health issues and their carers.
“I encourage all Victorians to go online and learn more about how they can have their voice heard as part of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system.”
To register for the Whittlesea or Seymour community consultations visit: https://rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/whats-happening-now
For general information visit: https://rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.