A focus on mental health and wellbeing has become increasingly important for communities and all levels of government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building and nourishing strong mental health and wellbeing enables us to navigate challenges, reach our full potential and heal. This year, Jesuit Social Services has contributed to a wide range of reforms that will help reshape the mental health system and improve outcomes for all members of society.

Jesuit Social Services believes in a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing. We work closely with those who become involved with the justice system and those who have multiple and complex needs. We argue that a well-resourced and more effective mental health system can allow people on the margins to thrive.

March this year marked the release of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System final report. Its landmark recommendations provide a roadmap for an evidence-based, person-centred system that meets the needs of all people experiencing poor mental health as well as their families, carers and supporters. Louise Flynn, General Manager of our Support After Suicide program, was quoted numerous times in the final report, highlighting the insufficiency of services available for families bereaved by suicide, particularly in rural and regional areas. We were pleased to see the Commission recommend the implementation of postvention services that support people bereaved by suicide.

We recently provided feedback on the proposed Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing. The Centre will make a positive impact on the lives of Victorians by providing translational research, mental health workforce development, and modelling of international best practice. We are pleased to see that the Centre will host a State-wide Trauma Service, which will develop and deliver training for trauma-informed care.

Jesuit Social Services also contributed to a sector consultation for the Integrated Alcohol and Other Drugs and Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework. This framework will improve outcomes for people living with both mental illness and substance issues by providing an integrated service response.

Earlier this year, we advocated for the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to take a strong stand on the need to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years. Children involved in the youth justice system already experience complex trauma and poor mental health. Repeat contact with the system is retraumatising and contributes to the risk of reoffending. Raising the age can help protect the mental health of an already highly vulnerable group.

In our submission to the Federal Inquiry into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, we highlighted the critical need for a trauma-informed workforce and specialist suicide postvention services. We reiterated these asks in our submission to the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy, also highlighting the need for a greater integration of care for people with multiple and complex needs. This will ensure care is provided holistically rather than in isolation.

The current focus on mental health offers an historic opportunity to drive systemic and cultural change. Jesuit Social Services will continue to advocate tirelessly for a just society, the cornerstone of which is a strong system of supports that enables everyone to flourish.