Media Release - Access and individual needs at the forefront of Annual Report
1 December 2023
Victoria’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (MHWC) today released the 2022 – 2023 Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC) Annual Report, revealing the most frequent complaint issues, themes and service improvements reported by mental health consumers, carers and their supporters.
Last financial year, the MHCC received 2425 enquiries, referrals and complaints with 1612 complaints being in our jurisdiction. Encouragingly, the complaint resolution rate for 2022-2023 increased by 10 per cent compared to the previous reporting year.
The most frequent issues reported in complaints were:
- treatment concerns, featuring in 77 per cent
- communication difficulties, featuring in 30 per cent, and
- medication issues, featuring in 29 per cent.
While the rate of complaints for all issues trended downwards in 2023, complaints about difficulty accessing the public mental health system reached a three-year high and featured in 12 per cent of complaints.
One parent and carer Gerry* was concerned that his daughter Sarah* was discharged from a hospital shortly after multiple self-harm incidents with no follow-up support in place. Gerry was worried that Sarah’s next self-harm incident may be catastrophic. Sarah didn’t understand why she didn’t have access to the treatment she urgently needed. Following a complaint to the MHCC, Sarah’s service provider met with Gerry and Sarah, conducted a thorough assessment and arranged the inpatient admission she needed.
Multiple complaints received in 2022 - 23 also highlighted the importance of responding to diversity in mental health services. Service providers must have regard to individual needs and experiences such as language, culture, gender, race, sexual orientation and faith in the treatment of an individual.
One consumer Harun* said that his cultural, dietary, and religious needs were not met while receiving inpatient care and that he wasn’t provided with a space to pray. He said he had raised this with the staff, but nothing had changed. Harun worried that the rights of others to have their individual needs recognised and responded to would also be restricted. Following a complaint to MHCC, the service acknowledged his concerns, clearly communicated where the space to pray was and senior staff began looking into meeting the needs of people with diverse dietary requirements.
Another consumer Isobel* said she was often not provided with access to an interpreter, which meant she didn’t properly understand the medication and treatment she was receiving. Following her complaint to the MHCC, Isobel received an apology and the service provided training to staff to ensure effective communication about treatment options.
In recognition of the individual needs of consumers, the MHCC – in partnership with people with lived experience from multicultural communities – co-produced a variety of resources in 20 languages in 2022 – 23, which are available both online and in print. The importance of clear communication and access to services that meet the diverse needs of individuals cannot be overestimated.
Michael, who identifies as male told us that mental health staff used incorrect pronouns and referred to him by his ‘dead’ name, which he no longer identifies with. Following Michael’s complaint to the MHCC, the service provider acknowledged his distress, took steps to improve their systems of personal identification and worked with him to regain his trust.
In 2022 – 23, the MHCC made 45 recommendations to make a stronger and fairer mental health system in Victoria. This resulted in more than 90 service improvements being made throughout the past financial year, an increase from 65 last year.
Of the 90 service improvements made in 2022 - 23, the three most common themes were:
- promoting recovery with 35 improvements
- communication with 28 improvements, and
- responding to individual needs with 22 improvements.
The MHCC also facilitated 674 formal acknowledgments of a person's experience, 558 actions to address a complaint, 314 answers and 120 apologies.
On 1 September 2023, the work and functions of the MHCC were transferred to Victoria’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission – an independent statutory authority with the power to not only address individual complaints but also initiate investigations and inquiries on systemic issues as well as report on the performance, quality and safety of the mental health system.
The MHWC can make recommendations to the Premier, Minister and public service, and hold the government to account for the implementation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
Quotes attributable to Treasure Jennings, Chair Commissioner, Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (former Mental Health Complaints Commissioner)
“We’re building on the momentum of the Royal Commission and new legislation to drive genuine and lasting change and ensure that mental health and wellbeing remain a top priority in Victoria”.
“People with a lived experience of mental health services are our greatest asset and by making a complaint they’re helping us shape a stronger and fairer system for everyone.”
“We recognise that individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds often face unique challenges when it comes to mental health, and we must take steps to address these issues. The importance of language access in mental health care cannot be overestimated.”
Media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Names and identifying details such as gender may be changed to protect the privacy of individuals.