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The personal cost of repetitive mental health inquiries that fail to result in change

  • Cathy J Francis
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: University of Newcastle, C/O Professor Rhonda Wilson 77a Holden St, Gosford, New South Wales, 2250, Australia
    Affiliations
    University of Newcastle - College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing - School of Nursing and Midwifery, Gosford, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Amanda Johnson
    Affiliations
    University of Newcastle - College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing - School of Nursing and Midwifery, Gosford, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Rhonda L Wilson
    Affiliations
    University of Newcastle - College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing - School of Nursing and Midwifery, Gosford, New South Wales, Australia

    Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
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      ABSTRACT

      Background

      Nurses and other professionals working in mental health care, and those utilising it, will likely be aware that the sector has been the subject of scrutiny through numerous public inquiries and Royal Commissions over the years.

      Aim

      The aim of this paper is to understand the total number of high-profile public inquiries undertaken in relation to mental health in Australia over the last 30 years. Importantly, we then seek to quantify the likely contributions by the community, including by people with experience of mental illness and their supporters, to those inquiries and to consider the personal impacts and outcomes of those contributions.

      Methods

      Information available in the public domain (online) on Royal Commissions, parliamentary inquiries, and federal Commission inquiries held in Australia between 1991 and August 2021, relating to mental health, is drawn on, collated, and compared.

      Findings

      No less than 55 high-profile public inquiries relevant to mental health have been held over the last 30 years, involving more than 55,000 public submissions and 9,000 witnesses, among other contributions made by the community. A significant proportion of these include contributions made by people who use mental health services, who share their personal stories in a process that is acknowledged as being potentially traumatic.

      Discussion

      Despite this enormous effort by the community generally, and by people with experience of mental health care specifically, to effect change in the mental health sector through formal inquiry processes, analysis shows that key recommendation themes identified for mental health care 30 years ago remain current issues today.

      Conclusion

      We see a role for mental health nurses together – to call on the Federal and State Governments to fund and implement the meaningful change required to improve the mental health system, as identified in the long-line of inquiries to date. With major budget announcements for mental health care recently made in Australia, now is the time to influence policy direction and implementation into the future.

      Keywords

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