Our submission on mental health

We have used our deep understanding of the inter-connecting issues facing women and children who are experiencing family violence and homelessness to contribute a submission to Victoria's Royal Commission into Mental Health Services. We have included the voices of women who have told us what works, and doesn't work, in the mental health services they have used over the years.

In our submission, we have argued that there is a general lack of understanding of what community mental health support is. This contributes to a lack of appreciation of the essential role that services such as ours play in restoring mental health. McAuley Community Services for Women is not classified as a clinical mental health service, yet a focus on mental wellbeing is at the core of everything we do.

We are hopeful that the Royal Commission will incorporate a broad view of all the factors that impact on mental health, and the range of comprehensive community supports that are needed, rather than narrowly focusing on clinical mental health service provision.

We also believe that it is important to see that the experience of family violence brings significant mental health consequences. Inadequate and fragmented responses when a woman and her children leave can magnify those mental health consequences, especially if they lead to poverty, homelessness, isolation and loss of employment and family connections. As our submission shows, these impacts are often seen later down the track in women who come to us because of longer-term homelessness.

We are well-placed to comment on how overall system failings in the family violence and homelessness policy sectors – not just gaps in the direct provision of mental health services – contribute to, or exacerbate, the mental health issues for women and children.

McAuley Community Services for Women has a flexible and innovative model of support that responds, early and effectively, to the wide range of women and children’s needs. At present a key component of that model is under threat with the impending loss of around $300,000 of community mental health funding. While it is a relatively small figure in the context of Victoria’s overall mental health expenditure, this loss will have a major impact on our holistic approach to support for women who are experiencing multiple disadvantages.

McAuley’s model of support has been proven to work and needs to be funded, and replicated, rather than reduced.

Our recommendations:

RETAIN

  1. Existing community mental health funding
  2. Skilled community mental health workforce

INVEST IN

3. Safe, secure, affordable and available housin

4. Replicate McAuley House mode

5. Multi-year funding blocks of 5 years or more with capacity to build multi-disciplinary teams

6. Data collection systems and evaluation of what’s working well

7. “Safe at Home” strategy so that women’s and children’s right to stay in the home after family violence is viewed as the norm, and accepted as a community responsibility

8.Children’s mental health supports, particularly in family violence and homelessness services program

9.Training to increase professional knowledge of inter-relatedness between family violence/homelessness/mental health

10. Training practices which address collusion with perpetrators of violence, such as ‘Safe and Together'

11. Court Support 4 Kids in all courts

12. McAuley Works women’s employment program and similar models supporting disadvantaged job seekers into paid employment and ensure appropriate outcome measurements that recognise the complexity of the cohort’s needs

13.Additional mental health facilities including more provision for after-hours support and regional and rural areas

PROMOTE

14.The value and expertise of the community mental health sector and recognise its capacity for prevention and early intervention

15.The use of a gender lens across service provision to ensure services are effective for the populations for which they are intended

IMPROVE

16. The clinical mental health system’s ability to match the need, including extension of current limits to psychologist appointments

17. The medical system’s response to complex needs, with the ability to take the time to examine root causes and diagnose early and appropriately.

Read: a summary of our submission

Download: the full submission.