MENTAL HEALTH – How to be effective in an age of reform

29 Jun 2017

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How to be effective in an age of reform

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

For Australia’s mental health sector the saying ‘change is the only constant’ rings very true, and is likely to do so for some time yet.

We’re all doing our best to strike the right balance between getting on with the important job at hand, while also responding to changes, and preparing for what we know, or hope, is likely to come.

What we know for sure is that one in five Australians currently experience mental illness, and too few have access to evidence based treatment or support. As we speak, the number of people who die by suicide continues to rise. We know that mental illness and substance abuse disorders represent between 10% and 15% of Australia’s total burden of disease and account for a quarter of all years of life lost due to disability.

So, how can we best get on with supporting people experiencing mental illness to seek and receive the help they need, in this age of ongoing reform?

Mental health reform in Australia is absolutely necessary, and any movement towards a better experience for Australians seeking help and support for their mental illness is welcome.

At the moment we still have a fragmented and unlinked environment that is frightening and difficult for people to navigate to get the best help possible. Thank goodness for the incredible people who work tirelessly to make it operate as close to a proper system as possible.

As we grapple with this changing environment, I think all of us need to be constantly reflecting on what we do, and how we do it:
• Do we know what consumers and carers really want from our service?
• Are we the best at what we do, or should we be clearing the way for others to excel?
• In a system that suffers chronic fragmentation, are we making every possible effort to collaborate?
• In a system that so often lacks evidence, are we evaluating the impact of our activities on the consumers and carers that draw on our services and programs?
• Are we actively exploring our failures in the hope of improvement?
• Are we celebrating and sharing our successes in the hope of disseminating our learnings?
We strive every day to achieve a true mental health ‘system’: one that’s linked with clear, evidence based pathways for people to choose and be supported on their journey. Much like the clear pathways that exist for other health conditions like diabetes or asthma.

But today, we must all do our best in an environment that is well short of optimal.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The future depends on what you do today”.