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Occupational therapists welcome final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

The peak body for Australian occupational therapists has welcomed the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, noting that many of its recommendations are in line with those made by the profession.

Chief Executive Officer of Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA), Samantha Hunter, said the Royal Commissioner’s report amounted to a call for a complete overhaul of the Victorian mental health system.

For too long, our mental health system has failed those who need it most. It is complex, fragmented, difficult to navigate; it operates almost exclusively in crisis mode and fails to provide proactive investment in good mental health and wellbeing.

"The Royal Commissioners have performed a valuable service by providing the blueprint for change in Victoria and – potentially – a template for other states and territories to follow,” Ms Hunter said.

Ms Hunter noted that a number of the Royal Commission’s recommendations align with those made by OTA in its submission to the Royal Commission.

Among these are:
  • Recommendation 3, which calls for greater integration of mental health services, so that more Victorians can access the right supports locally and in the community;
  • Recommendation 16, which calls on the Victorian Government to support the establishment of mentally healthy workplaces, free from stigma and discrimination;
  • Recommendation 22, which calls for older Australians to have access to the same mental health care, treatment and support as the rest of the adult population, as well as more specialised services and supports related to ageing;
  • Recommendation 25, which asks the Victorian Government to recognise people with mental illness as a priority population group for safe and affordable social housing;
  • Recommendation 41, which proposes a range of measures to address stigma and discrimination against people experiencing mental ill-health; and
  • Recommendation 57, which recognises the need for a Workforce Strategy and Implementation Plan to address the long-term recruitment, retention and succession requirements for a sustainable, multidisciplinary mental health workforce.

OTA also endorses the measures proposed by the Commissioners to reduce and ultimately eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint in Victoria’s mental health system; and to ensure that compulsory treatments are used only as a last resort.

There is no place for these practises in a mental health system which seeks to uphold the dignity and human rights of consumers,” Ms Hunter said.

Recommendation 15 – that the Victorian Government test and develop a range of initiatives that support community participation, inclusion and connection – was also welcomed by Ms Hunter.

Whilst occupational therapists utilise many of the same psychological therapies as other mental health professions, they are uniquely skilled in using ‘occupations’ to support recovery,” she noted.

Whether a client presents with physical health conditions, mental health conditions – or indeed both – the core focus remains enabling participation in the activities of everyday life.”

Mental health service provision is a longstanding and core area of practice in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists work across the full spectrum of mental health, treating relatively common conditions, such as anxiety and mood disorders, as well as those which require more targeted interventions, such as eating disorders and trauma-related conditions.

Ms Hunter thanked the Royal Commission Chair, Ms Penny Armytage AM, and Royal Commissioners, Dr Alex Cockram, Professor Allan Fels AO and Professor Bernadette McSherry, for their dedication to a very substantial undertaking, one which will be of lasting value to the Victorian community.

Ms Hunter commended the Andrews Government, which has committed to implementing all 65 of the report’s recommendations.

The Royal Commission’s final report is available here.

OTA’s submission to the Royal Commission is available here.

Media Contact
Michael Barrett | Government, Media and Public Relations 0403 795 505 policy@otaus.com.au

About Occupational Therapy Australia
Occupational Therapy Australia is the national professional association representing occupational therapy in Australia. We offer opportunities for our members to enhance best practice through professional development, support, and access to profession-specific information.

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