Supporting Victorians’ mental health and wellbeing is a complex issue. In listening to people with lived experience of mental illness, Jesuit Social Services understands how poor mental health can severely impact on an individual’s wellbeing across a wide range of areas including education and training, employment, family wellbeing, justice and crime.

It is therefore critical that we place a high priority on supporting the mental health of our communities in order to support not just individual mental wellbeing, but also their physical, social and economic health.

At the same time, a person’s mental health can be significantly impacted, positively or negative, by those same factors of experience of education, employment, family violence and the justice system. Consequently, any approach to improving the mental health system needs to take a comprehensive approach which looks to all of these factors as contributing to the health, welfare and intrinsic dignity of all in our communities.

The Royal Commission presents an opportunity to look not only at mental health services, but at the structures, conditions and systems in our society which interact with it, and which exacerbate or contribute to mental ill-health. Consequently, this submission will respond to the questions put forward by the Commission as to the effectiveness of the mental health system across this range of structures, conditions and systems.

The justice system is a particular focus of this submission, as we know that 61 per cent of prisoners in Victoria have or have had a diagnosis of a mental health disorder and we are aware of the impact that imprisonment, isolation and restraint have on individuals’ mental health – especially when they are young. The relationship between mental health and the justice system is therefore of great concern – especially considering the long-term ramifications on the individual, their family and community, and broader impacts this has on society.

It is therefore critical that any examination of the mental health system takes into account and understands the impacts of related systems such as justice, housing, education and employment. The experience of our program participants has shown us that mental health is rarely if ever isolated from these other domains and therefore a comprehensive, integrated response will be required if we are to effectively address the issue of mental health and its diverse impacts on our communities.

Download your copy of our Submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.