Productivity commission recommendations welcome, but fail to address the ‘big picture’ social determinants of mental health

Released on 20th November 2020

Victorian not-for-profit community health service, cohealth, welcomes the final report from the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Healthbut says the report falls short in addressing many of the structural drivers of mental health such as housing, racism, and poverty. 

cohealth says it is disappointed that the report explicitly excludes recommendations to address the fundamental causes of poor mental health – poverty, racism, inequality, unemployment. 

“The federal government controls a number of major social and economic levers which can impact people’s mental health,” said Ms Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth. 

“They can choose to reduce poverty by raising Jobseeker payments, increase social and affordable housing so that people aren’t living in unsafe accommodation or homelessness, improve social inclusion by investing in anti-racism programs and acknowledge the devastating impact that climate change has on people’s mental health, especially that of young people.” 

“We now await the report of the Victorian Royal Commission into mental health to see how the commonwealth and state reforms can be brought together to benefit our community now and into the future,” she said. 

Ms Bartholomeusz says that the community health model could be adopted to deliver more integrated, and locally-based mental health, physical health and social supports to marginalised populations who are at greater risk of mental ill-health due to social circumstances. 

Community health services such as cohealth were instrumental to Victoria’s response to COVID-19 due to their strong connection with local communities, and specific focus on the health needs of people from migrant backgrounds, those living in insecure housing, people who are experiencing homelessness and those struggling with addiction and trauma. 

“Community health is already working with marginalised populations and should be considered a key vehicle for the work of destigmatising mental illness and early intervention because our footprint is so large, and our relationships with community are so strong,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.  

“People come to us for their physical and mental health care including medical and dental, alcohol and drug services, disability support, allied health and counselling and psychosocial services.  Our clinicians already identify those who need mental health support, and join the dots between people’s mental, physical and social health.” 

Integrating mental and physical health services, and basing them locally produces optimal outcomes for clients, and in particular for vulnerable people, such as those living in public housing, people from culturally diverse backgrounds and those living in poverty, said Ms Bartholomuesz. 

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More information:  Lanie Harris 0418 552 377

More on cohealth: 

cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.  

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