Safeguarding people’s rights has continued to be the core focus of our work in resolving complaints about people’s experiences of public mental health services.

Complaints represent the voices of consumers, families and carers, and our function of identifying and analysing quality and safety issues in complaints is an important way of enabling these voices to be heard and taken seriously.

The themes we have identified from complaints tell us that much more needs to be done to ensure consumers are at the centre of their care and treatment, and that they feel safe and are safe in services.

These themes also speak to the need for ensuring recovery-oriented practice and trauma-informed care are embedded in service provision, as well as a greater understanding of the role of families, carers and other support people in the wellbeing and recovery of consumers.

The positive responses from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Chief Psychiatrist and mental health services to the recommendations of The right to be safe report, and to other service improvement recommendations made by our office, indicate that learnings from complaints are being used to drive positive change in services and the broader system.

This can also be seen in the 184 service improvement actions recorded as outcomes from complaints, which is more than double the number of actions recorded in 2016–17.

We are working closely with the department, the Chief Psychiatrist and mental health services on ways in which these planned actions will translate into real and sustainable changes in people’s experiences of services.

We are also now in the holiday season, which is a time to spend with family and friends and to reflect on 2018. We also know that it can be a difficult time for some people. Our hope is that you stay safe, maintain good health and feel supported as we move into 2019.

Our office will be open throughout the holiday season, except for public holidays. If you need emergency or crisis help, please visit our ‘Emergency help’ web page, which links to a range of available supports.

We thank the many people who have shared their experiences and knowledge with us, including the MHCC Advisory Council members, who have helped to ensure that our work is guided and shaped by the diversity of people’s lived experience.

We look forward to continuing to work with all our stakeholders to ensure the voices of consumers, families and carers are being heard and that complaints are seen as integral to improving the quality and safety of mental health services in Victoria.

We wish you a safe holiday season.

Dr Lynne Coulson Barr
Mental Health Complaints Commissioner