Historic $2.3 billion National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan

The Hon Greg Hunt MP

Minister for Health and Aged Care

The Morrison Government is continuing to guarantee essential services by investing $2.3 billion in the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan to lead landmark reform in mental health support and treatment for Australians in need.

Based on the principles of Prevention, Compassion and Care, the Plan will invest $1.4 billion in high quality and person-centred treatment, which includes the development of a national network of mental health treatment centres for adults, youth and children through the Head to Health and headspace programs.

Mental health and suicide prevention are key priorities for the Morrison Government in keeping Australians safe and a central feature of Australia’s Long-Term National Health Plan.

Every year more than 3,000 people lose their lives to suicide, and suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15-44 years.

In addition, one in five Australians experience some form of chronic or episodic mental illness each year. The personal toll on the lives of individuals and their families and carers is immense, and also has a profound effect on our society, health and social systems, and economy.

The Morrison Government is committed to working towards zero suicides and transforming the mental health system to ensure that all Australians can access the right care and essential services whenever and wherever they need.

We have undertaken an ambitious reform plan, recognising that Australians need a system that acts early to help people before mental health conditions and suicidal distress worsen, and that whole-of-government and whole-of-community changes are needed to deliver preventative, compassionate, and effective care.

The $2.3 billion Plan builds on the Morrison Government’s significant existing investment in mental health services for Australians throughout the 2019-20 bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic, and brings the Government’s total estimated mental health spend to $6.3 billion in 2021-22, an increase of around 90 per cent since 2012-13.

The Plan is based on 5 key pillars:

  1. Prevention and early intervention
  2. Suicide prevention
  3. Treatment
  4. Supporting the vulnerable, and
  5. Workforce and governance.

The Plan helps set Australia up for the future by introducing landmark reforms and will transform mental health care in Australia in several fundamental ways, including by:

  • building a world-class Head to Health digital platform to harness the power of technology to help Australians dealing with mental health issues
  • ensuring that our mental health and suicide prevention system reaches places where Australians work, learn and live – not just at emergency departments and health services
  • enhancing mental health care in primary care by supporting our GPs, strengthening the involvement of consumers and carers, and expanding Medicare services, so that Australians can access new and innovative types of mental health care
  • establishing a network of multidisciplinary mental health centres for adults, young people and children through the adult and child Head to Health and youth headspace programs
  • embedding multidisciplinary teams, care coordination, consistent intake and assessment tools, greater data collection and continuous evaluation into the system to ensure it is joined up, easy to navigate and, most importantly, patient focused
  • providing every Australian who is discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt with appropriate, ongoing follow up care in the community, and
  • improving the efficiency of the system so that resources are invested in delivering truly person-centred care.

This $2.3 billion investment is the first phase of the response to the findings of the Productivity Commission’s (PC) Inquiry into Mental Health and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s (NSPA) Final Report.

The Government has accepted all of the recommendations of both reports in full, in part or in principle. The majority of these recommendations require collaboration with state and territory governments, with a number to be pursued jointly through a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement.

Pillar 1: Prevention and early intervention ($248.6 million)

The Government is committing $248.6 million to prevention and early intervention, guaranteeing Australians access to these essential services. Key to this is an investment of $111.2 million in digital services, including the creation of a single, world-class digital platform under Head to Health that will provide online professional counselling, peer support, clinical support and referrals.

This also includes $77.3 million to continue support for existing digital mental health services, and to provide additional funding in 2021-22 for support services that manage increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019-20 summer bushfires.

$13.1 million will also be provided to support ReachOut Australia to continue delivering free and high quality digital mental health services to young Australians aged 12-25 as well as their parents, carers and schools.

Additionally, we will invest $47.4 million to support the mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents, including by providing $7.8 million for the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) helpline, enhancing digital screening and data collection, and working with states and territories to achieve universal perinatal mental health screening across antenatal and postnatal care settings.

We will also fund:

  • $77.1 million for the National Legal Assistance Partnership to support early resolution of legal problems for those experiencing mental illness, and for mental health workers in Domestic Violence Units (DVU) and Health Justice Partnerships (HJP) to support women who have experienced family violence
    • This will include increased mental health funding for the existing 21 DVUs and HJPs, with additional funding to seven of these for regional and remote outreach activities.
  • $6.3 million to increase mental health support services for fly-in fly-out and drive-in drive-out workers
  • $5.7 million to build on the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) program to assist people with mental illness to participate in the workforce. This includes trialling the extension of the program to support adults through two Head to Health adult treatments centres and piloting vocational peer support workers with lived experience of mental health whilst seeking employment in at least two headspace IPS sites, and
  • $0.9 million to continue the Ahead for Business digital hub, supporting small business owners to take proactive, preventive and early steps to improve their mental health.

Pillar 2: Suicide Prevention ($298.1 million)

The Government remains deeply committed to work towards zero suicides and is committing

$298.1 million to do so. For the first time and in partnership with states and territories, we will fund aftercare for every Australian discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt, at a cost of $158.6 million. Aftercare services provide follow up care in the immediate months after a suicidal crisis or attempt, and support individuals to seek appropriate help

when they need it most. We will also trial aftercare services for anyone who has attempted suicide or experienced suicidal distress that may not have presented to a hospital.

The Government will also fund:

  • $12.8 million for a National Suicide Prevention Office to oversee the national whole- of-government approach to suicide prevention
  • $61.6 million to expand the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program to increase investment in whole-of-population suicide prevention activities and services
  • $12 million to continue the delivery of local suicide prevention initiatives across Australia through the former National Suicide Prevention Trial sites
  • $22 million to provide, in partnership with the states and territories, national suicide postvention services which help those bereaved or impacted by suicide, including families, friends, workplaces, schools, community groups, frontline responders and witnesses, and
  • $31.2 million to pilot, in partnership with the states and territories, a national Distress Intervention program which will reach people in crisis earlier and provide immediate support.

Pillar 3: Treatment ($1.4 billion)

The Morrison Government will invest $1.4 billion to improve and expand accessible and effective mental health treatment for all Australians who need it, at the right stage of life.

The heart of the Government’s reform is an $820.1 million investment to create a national network of multidisciplinary mental health treatment centres based on three models:

  • Head to Health adult mental health treatment centres: We will improve access to community-based mental health services, including through the initial establishment of eight new centres, 24 new satellite centres, and ongoing funding for eight existing centres. We will also establish a dedicated phone service to support intake, assessment and referral, at a cost of $487.2 million
  • As part of this initiative, the Government will also work in partnership with state and territory governments to continue to expand the network of community-based adult mental health services.
  • Headspace youth treatment centres: We will continue to safeguard the wellbeing of young Australians aged 12-25 by strengthening, enhancing, and expanding the headspace network, at a cost of $278.6 million. This includes:
  • expanding the national headspace network by establishing ten new headspace centres and upgrading five satellite services, bringing the total number of headspace services across Australia to 164, and
  • working jointly with states and territories to boost clinical capacity at existing headspace services.
  • Head to Health Kids: In partnership with state and territory governments, the Government will create up to 15 new Head to Health Kids mental health and wellbeing centres for children aged 0-12 years. These centres will provide multidisciplinary support for infants, children and their parents, and improve early intervention outcomes for children’s mental health, at a cost of $54.2 million.

Operating under a ‘no wrong door approach’, these new services will ensure the delivery of easy to access, high quality, person-centred treatment and supports across the mental health care system in our cities, regions and rural areas, providing stigma-free and compassionate care.

They will also contribute to addressing the ‘missing middle’ service gap (the availability of services for those who are too unwell for the general primary care system but not unwell enough to require inpatient hospital services or intensive state-based community care).

The Government will also provide:

  • $34.2 million to support General Practitioners (GPs) in their role as a key entry point into the mental health system by expanding and implementing the Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) tool in primary care settings
  • $26.9 million to provide additional support for people with eating disorders and their families, including:
    • $2.5 million to deliver the final phase of the workforce credentialing project to ensure access to high quality care under the Medicare eating disorders items
    • $1.9 million to provide training to staff in the Head to Health adult mental health treatment centres
    • $13 million to establish a National Eating Disorder Research Centre
    • $0.3 million to continue Eating Disorders Families Australia’s strive program, which provides support for families and carers of people with eating disorders, and
    • working in partnership with states and territories to explore opportunities to establish additional eating disorder day programs.
  • $288.5 million to list Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) therapy on the MBS for patients with medication-resistant major depressive disorder
  • $111.4 million to support the take up of group therapy sessions and participation of family and carers in treatment provided under the Better Access initiative
  • $171.3 million over two years to continue psychosocial support for people with severe mental illness who do not qualify for the NDIS. This funding is in addition to that provided under the NDIS
  • $42.3 million to support access to parenting education and support, to build parenting strategies and help parents to identify problem behaviours early, and
  • $0.5 million to develop national guidelines to support states and territories to include social and emotional wellbeing and indicators in early childhood health checks, so any emotional difficulties can be identified early and in a nationally consistent way.

Pillar 4: Supporting the vulnerable ($107 million)

The Government is committing $107 million towards supporting vulnerable groups, including:

  • $79 million to implement key initiatives under a renewed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy, including:
    • $27.3 million to implement culturally-sensitive, co-designed aftercare services through regionally-based organisations, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations being preferred service providers
    • $23.8 million to support the establishment of regional suicide prevention networks and a lead commissioning officer in each jurisdiction, and
    • $16.6 million to Gayaa Dhuwi and Lifeline to establish and evaluate a culturally-appropriate 24/7 crisis line governed and delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • $16.9 million to fund mental health early intervention supports and preventive measures for migrants and multicultural communities, and address the cultural competence of the broader health workforce through the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, and Mental Health Australia’s Embrace Framework, and
  • $11.1 million to improve the experience of and outcomes for people with complex mental health needs through a range of targeted initiatives, including:
    • funding for SANE Australia to pilot specialised mental health services and interventions for people with complex mental health needs, and
    • additional training and education for the mental health workforce to better meet the needs of people with cognitive disability and autism.

A number of the new adult and child mental health centres will also be established with expertise focused on providing care for particular vulnerable groups, such as LGBTIQ+ or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health, based on identified areas of need.

Pillar 5: Workforce and governance ($202 million)

The Government is committing $202 million for mental health workforce and governance measures. This will ensure the system has the capacity and capability to provide quality and compassionate care. Key measures include:

  • $58.8 million to grow the mental health workforce by providing:
    • $27.8 million to increase the number of nurses, psychologists and allied health practitioners working in mental health settings through up to 280 scholarships and 350 clinical placements
    • $11 million to boost the psychiatrist workforce by making available 30 additional training posts by 2023, supporting regional and remote training pathways, and promoting psychiatry as a career pathway
    • $8.3 million to support greater representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the mental health workforce through 40 additional mental health-specific scholarships, and providing training to support healthcare workers to deliver culturally safe care
    • $3.1 million to boost and support the mental health peer workforce through up to 390 scholarships and opportunities for professional collaboration
    • $2.4 million to continue mental health training for practitioners working in aged care and support professional collaboration through the Mental Health Professionals’ Network
    • $1 million for initiatives to reduce the stigma associated with mental health among health practitioners, and promote mental health as a preferred career option, and
    • $0.3 million to identify opportunities to boost the skills of mental health professionals who work with children and families.
  • $15.9 million to support GPs and other medical practitioners to provide primary mental health care. This includes the provision of additional training in psychological therapies, reviewing and improving mental health training for medical practitioners, developing a nationally recognised Diploma of Psychiatry for medical practitioners, reviewing mental health prescribing practices and developing guidelines for the safe use of antidepressants in youth and children, and continuing to deliver the Equally Well Program promoting improvements to the physical health of those living with a mental illness
  • $7.3 million towards additional staff resources for the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) to support the Australian Government’s mental health and suicide prevention reform agenda
  • $2.6 million to provide tailored mental health supports to health practitioners and reduce stigma associated with health practitioners seeking support for their own mental health
  • $0.3 million to engage with mental health stakeholders to investigate and co-design future national peak body arrangements to provide consumers and carers with a greater say in the future of the mental health system, and
  • $117.2 million to establish a comprehensive evidence base to support real time monitoring and data collection for our mental health and suicide prevention systems, enabling services to be delivered to those who need them, and improving mental health outcomes for Australians.

Funding from a number of these measures will be used to grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workforce, building the capacity of culturally safe treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The reforms included in this historic Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan will continue to guarantee Australians with essential services, and are the first major step in what will be an ongoing effort to create a world-leading mental health and suicide prevention system.

Many of these reforms will require a phased approach and ongoing cooperation with states and territories and with stakeholders, but by working together we can build the mental health and suicide prevention system that Australians deserve.

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