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MHCC ACT Seeking Member Feedback on 2024 Election Platform

MHCC ACT has formulated a draft of our Election Platform. Developed by the team following our member advocacy workshop, we have sprinkled in other asks to provide further support and recognition of our members in the community-managed mental health space. We’d love you to read the document and are open to advice, so feel free to contact us at admin@mhccact.org.au by 31 May please. We will then incorporate the finalised asks in the upcoming Ministerial and MLA meetings that have been scheduled.  

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ACT Election: Mental Health Policies and Priorities

About Us

The Mental Health Community Coalition ACT is our Territory’s peak body for community-managed mental health services. Our members make up two-thirds of Canberra’s mental health system, receive around 10% of the Territory’s mental health budget, and comprise Canberra’s community service organisations, social services, counsellors, mental health services, family support, as well as domestic violence shelters, health services for marginalised groups, soup kitchens, and more. We advocate for a mental health system that offers people support and belonging within their community. This involves strengthening the mental health community sector, as well as working towards overall social, economic, and cultural conditions that provide fertile ground for thriving and resilience. Everyone has a role to play in improving mental health, including individuals, families, community groups, schools, businesses, and government.
Our policy priorities for 2024 are:
Loneliness
Perinatal mental health
Climate change
Justice

Loneliness

Loneliness is the feeling we get when we don’t have our social needs met. The same way that a failure to eat will lead to hunger, a lack of connection will lead to loneliness. It is possible to feel lonely while surrounded by others, and so, the opposite of loneliness is not necessarily social contact. Rather, it’s feelings of belonging, connectedness, solidarity, and companionship. Loneliness prevalence in the ACT is the highest of all Australian jurisdictions. It is associated with a range of mental and physical health risks, including early death. Research has shown that loneliness poses the same level of mortality risk as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. However, loneliness is not widely understood to be a public health issue and needs to be prioritised as such.

We call on the ACT Government to:

Establish community wellbeing hubs to create opportunities for community engagement. Build four new community mental health hubs, drawing on resources from ACT Health, Capital Health Network and the community sector, that blend clinical and psychosocial services, for holistic mental health care and access and navigation support to other support services, such as AOD and housing. Ensure LGBTQIA+ Canberrans can access all mental health services safely and that staff have the training and protocols in place to provide respectful care. Fund the Safe Haven to be open7 days a week to enable opportunities for further hospital avoidance in mental health.

Perinatal Mental Health

Parents are vulnerable to mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and (less commonly) psychosis during the perinatal period. Perinatal mental health issues have a high prevalence (1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers/partners) and are associated with risks to foetal and child development as well as significant social and economic costs. Perinatal mental ill-health is also associated with maternal suicide, self-harm, and physical health complications. The ACT is missing integrated mental health care for people during this vulnerable time of their lives. Parents need the opportunity to remain with their babies during mental health crisis, yet we have no facilities available. While its Maternity in Focus Plan promises to deliver important change, the situation is urgent as it currently stands.

We call on the ACT Government to:

Commit to building the residential parent-baby mental health unit. Develop and implement a world class perinatal mental health service model, with emphasis on community care and step-up step-down services, plus a mix of clinical and psychosocial support services.

Climate Change

Climate and mental health have a close relationship. The impacts of climate change can lead to climate anxiety, and distress resulting directly from disaster. Climate change also disproportionately affects people with lived experience of mental ill-health. Heatwaves can trigger symptoms of mania for people with bipolar disorder and hostile weather conditions can generally exacerbate mood and anxiety levels. Heatwaves are also associated with higher suicide risk and higher death risks for people with disability, including mental ill-health. There is also correlation with an increase in domestic violence cases. ACT climate change and disaster strategic planning has not accounted for this key relationship.

We call on the ACT Government to:

Include mental health in all ACT Government Climate Change related strategies. These strategies should consider how best to manage and respond to community concerns about climate change, including through increased opportunities for volunteering and engagement in mitigation work for better community mental health.

Justice

Carceral environments can be traumatic. Often, such environments entrench disadvantage over generations, and increased risks of re-offending. Unnecessary contact with the justice system may be avoided with improved access to such measures as mental health or AOD care, support for relationship issues, practical assistance, housing, and equitable relief of cost-of-living pressures. Such measures may also prevent reoffending. In addition, mental health care can be experienced as punitive and traumatising, such as through involuntary treatment, seclusion, and restraint. Such practices compromise therapeutic benefits of care.

We call on the ACT Government to:

Extend the PACER program to include consumer and carer peer support as part of the participating response team. Increase access to Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for people in the justice system with mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and substance abuse. Build a new custodial mental health model of care that describes how it will support the mental health and wellbeing of people in custody and their families.

Additionally

We call on the ACT Government to:

Commit to allocating 20% of the ACT Mental Health Budget to the services provided by community-managed organisations from 2025-26. This will create a range of new service options for Canberrans and reduce the focus on hospital, emergency and bed-based mental health care. The expansion of these items should be pursued as a key reform by the ACT under revised National Health Reform Agreement arrangements pertaining to out of hospital care. This would include models like Hospital in the Home being applied in mental health along with other models.

Commit to a truly joined up Territory-wide strategic mental health plan, focusing on creating one coherent, organised response to mental illness and drawing on the collective workforces of Canberra Health Services, ACT Health, Capital Health Network, the ACT’s community sector, Housing ACT, Community Services Directorate, ACT Education Directorate and others. Funds pooling should be considered to create necessary linkages between stakeholders. Work should be supported by data linkage, enabling, for example, the impact of new Medicare Mental Health Centres on hospital admission to be understood.

Conduct an immediate audit of all the lease and office accommodation arrangements of Canberra’s community-managed mental health organisations, with a view to ensuring at least five years tenancy is secured. This matter will assist with sector sustainability and workforce attraction.

Conclusion

Canberra’s population continues to grow apace. It is not beyond us to get organised to better meet the rapidly evolving mental health needs of our community. Imagine a world where people needing mental health care didn’t have to go to hospital for care but could find the help they needed, when they needed it, in the community. This is safer, more efficient, and more effective mental health care. The actions described here require new data collection, so we can more effectively monitor the impact of desired changes and assess the extent to which our community enjoys enhanced feelings of belonging, connectedness, solidarity, and companionship. Together we can create a more mentally healthy Canberra.

Please provide comments to admin@mhccact.org.au by 31 May



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