Jesuit Social Services

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Media release - 7 December

Focus on vulnerable people crucial to Victoria's 10-year mental health plan

Jesuit Social Services welcomes the Victorian Government's 10-year Mental Health Plan, and in particular its commitment to ensure all Victorians can achieve "good mental health... particularly those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable".

"We agree with the Victorian Government that the state's current mental health system is struggling to adequately meet the needs of vulnerable Victorians," says Jesuit Social Services Acting CEO Sally Parnell.

"A clear focus on improving outcomes for people experiencing disadvantage and social marginalization will help to develop productive members of society and ultimately lead to safer communities."

One of the short-term outcomes of the plan is the impending establishment of a whole-of-government suicide prevention framework, which will identify and support high risk groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refugees and people seeking asylum.

"Jesuit Social Services works with other high risk groups including people exiting prison and people who have lost a loved one to suicide and are themselves an estimated five times more likely to take their own lives," says Ms Parnell.

"Recent research indicates that women released from prison are 14 times and men released from prison are five times more likely to take their own lives than the general population so it is crucial that this particularly vulnerable group receives adequate and holistic support both in prison and on re-entering the community.

"We are pleased to see the government's plan recognise that people with mental illness are overrepresented in the justice system, and that disadvantage including mental illness is a key driver behind high reoffending rates."

Ms Parnell says report Dropping off the Edge 2015, commissioned by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia, also highlights the urgent need to address locational disadvantage.

"This report highlighted how Victoria's most disadvantaged communities are dealing with a web-like structure of entrenched disadvantage, including mental illness, long-term unemployment, family violence and low education.

"In these communities, the impact of mental illness will not be reduced without also responding to other major contributors to entrenched disadvantage. We hope the state's whole-of-government approach provides targeted, tailored solutions to the people and communities most in need of support."

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10 December 2015