Monash mental health research contributes to major Victorian parliamentary report

For people with severe mental health problems, it’s hard enough just to get through some day, without having to make decisions about their own medical treatment, finances and housing … right? Actually the opposite is true.

A new study ‘Options for Supported Decision-Making to Enhance the Recovery of People with Severe Mental Health Problems has found that when people with severe mental health problems are given access and support to make these fundamental decisions for themselves, there are significant benefits for their recovery and quality of life.

The Victorian study, the first of this kind in Australia, was a 3-year interdisciplinary research collaboration between Monash University and the University of Melbourne, funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

The project was led by Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic (Monash) in collaboration with Professor Bernadette McSherry Professor Helen Herrman and Associate Professor Lisa Brophy (University of Melbourne). It was supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Mind Australia (Mind), Neami, Wellways (formerly Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia) and Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) and Tandem Carers.

The study aimed to explore the lived experience of people using mental health services, and to identify the barriers and facilitators to accessing the support they may require in making decisions about treatments and other aspects of their lives.

The researchers found that one of the key barriers to giving this group of people agency in their own health outcomes is that both the current laws, and the model of mental health service delivery, frequently deny people with severe mental health problems access to that decision making process. The study also found a key strategy for improving access to supported decision making was the reform of ‘cultures of care’ in mental health services.

The findings of the research are already having an impact in the sector with a major new Victorian Government report: ‘Victoria’s mental health services annual report 2015-16‘ incorporating many of the findings of the joint Monash University/University of Melbourne study.

The Victorian Government report will be the first time that such comprehensive information about Victoria’s public mental health system has been compiled in a single, easily accessible document. The report aims to be as engaging as possible to health services, consumers, carers and families, and contributes to broader community understanding about mental health and mental health services. The report is being tabled in the Victorian Parliament on the 22nd November 2016 and will be housed in the National and State Libraries and Archives.

Find out more about supported decision making

Study at Monash