In July 2019, Jesuit Social Services made a written submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Our aim was to facilitate the voice and experience of our participants and program staff in relation to mental health and wellbeing.

Jesuit Social Services’ submission made recommendations across a range of areas. These include broader prevention strategies, such as place-based approaches to disadvantage, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led services, attention to the role of gender in mental well-being, and the importance of adequate housing.

Our submission made recommendations regarding people with complex needs, people intersecting with the justice system, family violence, and suicide postvention support. It highlights Jesuit Social Services’ work providing soft entry points to the mental health system, dual-diagnosis services and supported employment programs, and pointed to gaps in existing systems, such as the NDIS.

Since lodging our submission last year, the Royal Commission has published its 680-page Interim Report (November 2019). The Interim Report refers to information provided by the Manager of Jesuit Social Services’ Support After Suicide Program, Dr Louise Flynn, who told the Commission that Support After Suicide’s “day-to-day work is about suicide prevention and assisting people with their mental health and in their engagement in community life” and that the service “does not have enough funding to respond to all the requests for support it receives and that services are restricted in regional areas”.

Since then, Jesuit Social Services has made further contributions to the Royal Commission. These include a public (witness) statement by our CEO, Julie Edwards, participation in a public panel hearing held (via Zoom) focusing on the intersection of mental illness and the justice system, and a supplementary submission to the Royal Commission in October 2020.

Jesuit Social Services’ supplementary paper provides further information to the Royal Commission regarding practical solutions based on our experiences of working with participants who intersect both the mental health and criminal justice systems. Contributions were made by staff across our service delivery programs, in collaboration with the central Learning and Practice Development Unit and Policy and Advocacy and Communications teams.

Our paper outlines challenges within the current service system and practical solutions to address these based on our grounded experience working with participants with mental illness and/or justice system involvement. The paper emphasises the importance of a coherent, comprehensive, value-based practice framework that drives service delivery and outcomes and discusses how, at Jesuit Social Services, this is provided by the Our Way of Working practice approach.

This final paper continues a thread common across our submissions to the Royal Commission–that it is often people experiencing disadvantage or complex life circumstances who fall through the cracks in our mainstream mental health system, and that this Royal Commission is a unique opportunity to address this.