National Mental Health Strategy

Choose ONE policy to work with for the entire study period.
The policy choices are:

  1. National Mental Health Strategy
  2. National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) or National Partnership on
  3. Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) 2007
    Provide an historical outline of their chosen policy that includes:
  4. historical outline
  5. discuss how or why the policy was formed
  6. what principles are at stake?
  7. what are the issue drivers?
  8. what is the media portray of the policy

National Mental Health Strategy

Historical outline
The National Mental Health Strategy refers to the Australian government commitment to
improve the mental well being of Australians. The strategy was endorsed by the Australian
Health Ministers Conference (AHMC) in April 1992. The strategy was a framework which
would be used to establish mental health reform. The main aim of the National Mental Health is
to promote Australian community mental wellbeing, prevent new incidences of mental disease,
and reduce the effect of the mental illness on the families, individuals and the community at
large (Australian Government 2013a).
The strategy also aims to assure and protect the rights of individuals diagnosed with mental
disorders. Since its endorsement, the strategy has been reformed a several times. The second
mental health plan was reaffirmed in 1998, which was followed by a second reformation in 2003;
the National Mental Health plan 2003-2008. The most recent revised National Mental Health
policy was in 2008; which was followed by revision of mental health statement of rights and
responsibilities in 2012. Change of governance in 2014 led to the fourth National Mental Health

National Mental Health Strategy 2
Strategy where the common wealth government committed to improve the overall service and
mental health programs (Kruk 2012).
Formation of the policy
In the 1950s, the mental health institution in Australia was poor. There was no community care
for mental illness. There were little investments in community care settings, which resulted into
high cost of care such that those diagnosed with mental illness could not afford care. This created
the motivation to establish principles for protecting people with mental health in order to
improve the mental health in Australia ((Australian Government 2013b). As early as the 1990S,
an inquiry was formed to look into the human rights of the Australians diagnosed with mental
illness. The commission investigated the human rights in every state and territory in Australian.
The then Commissioner Brian Burdekin publicly raised his concerns about the abuse of the UN
principles. This indicated the significance of national policy.
In 1992, the Australian government endorsed the first National Mental Health Strategy, which
foreshadowed the previous major policies in the manner in which services was delivered to
people affected with mental disorders. The agreement defined the government’s framework and
the national directions to work in unison to change the mental health system that had been
neglected by the policy makers (Althaus, Bridgeman, & Davis 2012).This National Mental
Health strategy has undergone series of reforms 2003, and was further refined in 2009, where the
healthcare processes were refined and the reform actions were developed so as to improve social
inclusion, prevention and recovery. The actions also improved access of services through
coordinated as well as innovative mental health care. In 2012, the Australian government
established a commission to monitor the health reforms. Change of governance in 2014 led to the

National Mental Health Strategy 3
fourth National Mental Health Strategy where the common wealth government committed to
improve the overall service and mental health programs (Zeng et al. 2012).
Principles at stake
The main policy outlined in this policy includes setting of national service standards, protecting
citizen’s rights, mainstreaming of mental health with the other general services and integration of
community healthcare services in order to ensure continuity of care. These principles are
articulated in four major documents (Regier & Parmelee 2015);
a) National Mental Health Policy – a document that outlines the mental healthcare new
approaches that promote a shift from institutional towards a community oriented
approach. This is more like the Australians government mission statement.
b) The National Mental Health Plan – a document chartered as action plan, and it describes
the common wealth, state and territory institutions that implement the aims as well as the
main objectives of National Mental Health Policy. This is a five year plan that comprises
of policy’s aims and objectives.
c) The Mental Health Statement of Rights and responsibilities, which embraces the United
Nations Policy Resolution 98B- “ Resolution on the protection of People Rights with
Mental diseases”; and as highlighted by the philosophical understanding of National
Mental Health Strategy of human rights.
d) The Medicare Agreements- which are well set out by the common wealth, Australian
states as well as the territories in attaining reform on mental care services financial
support and the funding arrangements.

National Mental Health Strategy 4
The policy drivers/motivators
Since the launch of this policy, the several aforementioned structural reforms have been done in
order to reduce the overreliance of the stand alone psychiatric hospitals. These subsequent
reforms lay emphasis on promotion and prevention of mental health. This is achieved by
fostering partnerships with primary care providers and specialist of services across the various
sectors in the community and the government. The National Mental Health policy has continued
to prioritize early mental interventions to ensure that all Australians diagnosed with mental
disorder can access support and care at community level (Jones 2010).
Statistics indicates that approximately 20% of the Australian people suffer from mental illness
annually. This calls for improved mental health care services in order to meet increased demands
to ensure people diagnosed with mental diseases receive quality services. The other drivers of the
policy are the need to establish cost effective programmes and services for the low income
earners. (Bateman & Smith 2011).The need to explore other alternatives to support mental
health, improve mental health research, address the rural and regional specific challenges, and
the challenges experienced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are the key motivators
for the implementation of the National Mental Health Strategy (Shin and Kim 2015).
How the policy is portrayed by the media
Some of the media reports highlight the government commitment in setting national objectives
for reforms and increased efforts in ensuring progress of quality mental health. The governments
have supported series of National Mental Health Strategy in the last 15 days. The strategies have
set goals of evaluating the mental healthcare system. According to the media, the ongoing
national collaborative efforts in Australia have not been effective because it lacks accountability

National Mental Health Strategy 5
(Talbott 2013). This indicates a critical gap in the planning and implementation of the mental
health policy. The reports also indicate increasing resistance from current stakeholders, which
causes reduced investment in the implementation of the National Mental Health Strategy. For
instance, one of the reports indicated that approximately one in every people in Australia suffers
from mental illness (Australian Public Policy 2013). It is the third leading cause of disability in
Australia, and it accounts for about 27 % of the years lost due to disability. This indicates that
mental illness incidence is as high as last years ago. This indicates that despite the fact
government shifted its approach in mental health across the various programs; there are still
some blockages in the implementation of the policy, which includes reluctance of policy makers
in providing transparency in their implementation role (Australian Government 2013c).

National Mental Health Strategy 6


Althaus, C, Bridgeman, P & Davis, G 2012, The Australian policy handbook, 5th edn, Allen and
Unwin, NSW.
Australian Government. 2013a, Mental health services in Australia reports.
Australian Public Policy. 2013,Mental health policy — stumbling in the dark?
Bateman, J. & Smith, T. (2011). Taking Our Place. International Journal Of Mental
Health, 40(2), 55-71.
Jones, D 2010,COMMENTARY: Deinstitutionalization of mental health services in south
Australia – out of the frying pan, into the fire?. Community Health Studies, 9(1), 62-68.

Kruk, 2012, Australia’s ambitions to make a difference in people’s lives: the early focus of the
new National Mental Health Commission. Mental Health Review Journal, 17(4), 238-