Media releases

November 29, 2013

New white paper reveals urgent need for mental health system reform

Australia's mental health system requires urgent reform or we risk failing to address key challenges of increasing workforce participation and productivity, according to a new white paper, Australia's mental health system - can we achieve generational change?, released today.

The paper, developed following a two-day workshop of more than 40 of Australia's leading thinkers in mental health, health and social services, and hosted by beyondblue and Medibank, is intended to reinvigorate discussions for mental health reform and presents some ideas for a better mental health system.

Ms Kate Carnell AO, Chief Executive Officer of beyondblue, said that any reform needed to emphasise the importance of wellness, and not just treatment, and the importance of individuals rather than service providers.

"The nature of mental illness issues means people will often interact frequently with multiple sections of the healthcare system and the broader social and support payments systems. Yet these very systems are characterised by fragmentation and insufficient coordination. This often leads to a breakdown in service delivery responsiveness and at best, duplication and wastage.

"Workshop participants agreed that we need a mental health system that is based on the objective of maximising social inclusion and economic participation while respecting and encouraging individual choice and control," she said. "A reformed mental health system should be directed nationally, with services delivered regionally and controlled by individuals. It should be based on complexity of need."

The paper lays out five philosophies to drive reform and force change to current mental health system practices, saying a new mental health system should be built around:

  1. individuals, their families and carers exercising choice and control
  2. fully-integrated funding and service delivery for health, wellbeing, housing, employment, education and other human services across people's life stages
  3. investment based on complexity of needs, evidence and measured outcomes
  4. barriers to social and economic participation identified and dismantled
  5. equitable investment, tailored to individual and population needs to strengthen natural and informal supports, and build 'mental capital' (the population's ability to cope with life's swings and roundabouts).

Ms Carnell said: "We need to create a community that values good mental health and helps people to develop resilience and maintain their wellbeing."

The white paper calls for investment in developing individual and community resilience and prevention, the creation of communities and environments that value and nurture 'mental capital', and the provision of universal access to evidence-based prevention programs and self-directed therapies.

Among the white paper's recommendations are:

  1. individually controlled services
  2. regionally-based and funded services
  3. investment in individual and community resilience and prevention
  4. the development of a National Accord.

"Governments and agencies across Australia need to agree to a National Accord that provides integration across key government portfolio areas; provides national direction and regulation; coordinates funding and agreed targets; lays out a national framework for the delivery of services; advances research, innovation and continuous improvement; and pools funding to provide integrated services," Ms Carnell said.

"Australia has an opportunity to lead the world in end-to-end mental health system redesign to deliver better quality and outcomes at a lower cost. We just need to be brave and continue to hold workshops like these to continue formulating ideas and generating discussions," she said.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Executive General Manager of Medibank Health Solutions and a practising psychiatrist, said that mental health is an issue close to the heart of Medibank and that Medibank Health Solutions operates the beyondblue Support Service, and other telehealth mental health services, which connect callers with trained mental health professionals 24/7.

"Medibank stands 'for better health' and mental health is clearly a key health issue we all need to face into. Mental health is key to general wellbeing and it is important that we empower all Australians with the tools and ability to address mental health issues.

"Medibank is pleased to have been able to support collaboration and discussion across the mental health, health and social services sectors to develop this white paper, which we hope will reinvigorate reform discussions to create a world-class system.

"As both a funder and provider of services, Medibank has shown with other health services that it can address systemic issues through the advancement and coordination of healthcare. We can take many of these learnings and apply them to mental health," Dr Cullen said.

This week also saw the launch of the National Mental Health Commission's second report card, A Contributing Life: the 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which continues the National Mental Health Commission's commitment for change by building upon the foundations and whole of life scope established in the inaugural Report Card.

About beyondblue

beyondblue the national depression and anxiety initiative is a not-for-profit bipartisan organisation that works to raise awareness of depression and anxiety, to reduce the associated stigma and empower people to get the help they need, when they need it, wherever they live in Australia.
For more information go to or to talk to a mental health professional, call the beyondblue Support Service 1300 22 4636.

About Medibank Health Solutions
Medibank Health Solutions offers innovative and cost-effective healthcare services to business and government. Drawing on more than 35 years' experience, working in partnership with over 4,000 businesses and government organisations, we help Australians to better manage their health.
Our team of over 1,500 medical and allied health professionals provide more than 3 million health care interactions a year, by telephone, online and from our Australia-wide network of clinics.
Medibank Health Solutions is both a funder of inpatient mental health services and a provider of telehealth based mental health services, for organisations such as beyondblue, state government helplines and Mental Healthline in New Zealand.

White paper: Australia's mental health system - can we achieve generational change?
In August 2013, beyondblue and Medibank Health Solutions convened a two day workshop to reinvigorate the mental health reform process. The workshop followed a substantial research project on Australia's mental health system and was attended by more than 40 of Australia's leading thinkers in mental health, health and social services. The workshop participants debated the challenges with the existing system, considered what needs to change to improve outcomes and how to build momentum for reform. This document, which sets out the key insights from the workshop, provides a starting point for meaningful mental health system reform.
For more information see the beyondblue and Medibank white paper

The Case for Mental Health Reform in Australia: A Review of Expenditure and System Design
Conducted by leading Australian management consulting firm, Nous Group and Medibank, the research provides a comprehensive picture of the direct financial costs of supporting people with a mental illness in Australia; examines the structure of the current Australian system; and reviews domestic and international examples in which integrated approaches to mental healthcare and social services deliver better health outcomes and a better experience for consumers as well as improved cost effectiveness.
For more information see the Nous Group and Medibank research  

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