State & territory jurisdictional reports: Activity relating to mental health reform prior to the implementation of the Fourth National Mental Health Plan

1. Improve community and service understanding and attitudes through a sustained and comprehensive national stigma reduction strategy

Page last updated: December 2010

Department of Health and Ageing

  • The Australian Government funds a range of activities that have the broad aim of reducing stigma, raising community awareness of mental illness and promoting mental health literacy. Core objectives of current programs include:
    1. Promotion of mental health literacy and understanding of mental illness in the broader community including:
      • Funding to beyondblue: national depression initiative, beyondblue's key goals are to promote awareness, change community attitudes and improve services for people with depression and anxiety disorders.
      • the Commonwealth's National Suicide Prevention Strategy which aims to reduce the incidence of suicide and self harm, and to promote mental health and resilience through a range of population health activities.
      • Mental health publications /materials. Approximately 100 free publications are available to reduce stigma and raise awareness of mental illness and the rights of consumers and carers.
      • funding the Mental Health Council of Australia to enhance awareness of mental health and mental illness through World Mental Health Day activities.
      • support for consumer and carer organisations. Top of page
    2. Raising awareness of mental health and the importance of help seeking among school aged children including;
      • Mindmatters- aims to build positive school environments , includes mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention
      • KidsMatter primary - framework for primary schools which promotes collaboration between health and education sectors
      • KidsMatter Early Childhood - an initiative for children from birth to school age being piloted in preschools and long day care centres
      • headspace - youth friendly, community based service for people between 12-25 and their families
    3. Promoting better understanding by the media of mental illness and suicide and hence more responsible and accurate reporting;
      • Mindframe Media Initiative and
      • SANE Australia Stigma Watch – a web-based StigmaWatch program to promote accurate, respectful and sensitive depiction of mental illness.
    4. Targeting awareness raising of mental health issues and reducing stigma among key frontline professionals including teachers, journalists, child care workers, and family court workers including:
      • Response Ability Teacher Education
      • Mental Health First Aid Training conducted through the Australian Rotary Health
      • National Eating Disorders Collaboration
      • Better Access Initiative – allows psychiatrists, paediatricians and GP's to refer patients for intensive short term subsidised mental health services.
    5. Providing a complaints avenue for the reporting of poor media coverage e.g. SANE Media Watch as above.
  • Funding is provided to the Mental Health Council of Australia for national secretariat activities through the Community Sector Support Scheme which covers raising public awareness and acceptance of mental illness through publications, submissions, media releases and policy forums.
  • The Department of Health and Ageing is leading the 4th National Mental Health Plan Implementation Stigma Subgroup, a cross-jurisdictional group to focus on taking forward the priority area of stigma reduction. Top of page

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

  • Targeted Community Care (mental health) Program: comprises three initiatives funded under the COAG National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011: Personal Helpers and Mentors; Mental Health Respite and Community Based Services
    Service providers funded through the Targeted Community Care (TCC) initiative are required to have mental health training that improves their understanding of mental health and helps them reduce the barriers to seeking help for people with mental illness.
    Broad objectives of TCC are to increase:
    • community awareness and understanding of mental health issues and the impact of mental illness on families,
    • community participation and
    • awareness and understanding of mental health issues in the community.
    Initial findings from the TCC Evaluation indicate that the three community-based mental health services are being well received within the community. They are achieving their objectives for people with mental illness, their families and carers and the community more broadly.
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - On 17 July 2008, Australia became one of the first western nations to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention). While not creating any new rights, all tiers of Australian government now have an obligation to act in accordance with the rights provided for in the Convention. The Convention aims to enhance opportunities for people with disability to participate in all aspects of social and political life including access to employment, education, health care, information, justice, public transport and the built environment.Under the Convention, Australia is obliged to combat stereotypes and prejudices and to promote awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities (Article 8). Article 33(1) requires the designation of a joint focal point in government and a national mechanism to promote and monitor the implementation of the Convention. On 15 September 2009 FaHCSIA and the Attorney-General's Department were formally designated as a joint focal point within government for matters relating to the implementation of the Convention.
  • National Disability Strategy - The Australian Government is developing a National Disability Strategy (NDS) which will provide direction and focus at a national level for the development of disability legislation, policy and standards which deliver a whole-of-government, whole-of-life approach to disability planning. The Convention has a significant focus on implementation and monitoring and the Government has been considering how to appropriately enhance implementation through both formal and informal mechanisms, including the NDS.
    The NDS will be an important mechanism to ensure that the principles underpinning the Convention are incorporated into policies and programs affecting people with disability, their families and carers.
  • National Secretariat Program - FaHCSIA provides funding to 12 national disability peak organisations to provide grass roots' policy advice to the Australian Government and other agencies on national issues affecting people with disability and their families. Top of page

Department of Veterans' Affairs

  • The Men's Health Peer Education Program continues to assist in promoting healthy lifestyle choices within the veteran community and encourages members of the veteran community to share responsibility for managing their own health and wellbeing. The program continually develops new and improved ways to raise awareness of men's health issues.
  • The At Ease Recognise-Act-Maintain website provides mental health promotion resources that supports and encourages veterans and their families to recognise take action, and assume more responsibility for their own mental health and wellbeing.

Department of Defence

  • As a key prevention strategy, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is establishing a comprehensive resilience training program called BattleSMART (Self Management and Resilience Training).
  • Defence support the expansion of mental health literacy training initiatives that will increase the general understanding of the impact and appropriate management of mental health conditions. Currently there are innovative and interactive mental health literacy programs across Defence in the areas of suicide prevention and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
  • Defence and Department of Veterans' Affairs are embarking on the largest, most comprehensive health study of ADF serving and ex-serving members. This Military Health Outcomes Program (MilHOP) will support Defence and DVA efforts to achieve better long-term health outcomes for Defence personnel through improved health services and policies.The mental health component of the program specifically targets stigma reduction.