Many people who experience mental illness, their families and their carers, as well as clinicians, policymakers, non-government organisations and concerned citizens, have argued for the need for reform in mental health. The Commission is the result of an extensive consultation process with this community.
In 2011, the NSW government set up the Taskforce to Establish a Mental Health Commission in NSW. The role of the Taskforce was to consult, research and advise on what should be in legislation to establish a mental health commission to respond to the specific mental health needs of NSW.
The Taskforce consulted people in metropolitan, rural and regional areas of NSW with people with lived experience of mental illness, families, carers, clinicians, service providers, government agencies, the non-government sector and the general community. Mental health commissions in Canada, New Zealand, California and Western Australia were also consulted.
The consultations demonstrated that the community wanted an independent body that would take a holistic approach to addressing the needs of people with mental illness across government and whole of life, and deal with other related diseases and disorders - not just mental health. The community also voiced a desire for a body that would focus on the “big picture” systemic issues, and be an authentic champion of reform.
The Mental Health Commission of New South Wales was established in July 2012 under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 for the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and improving the NSW mental health system.
An effective mental health system requires a co-ordinated and integrated approach across all levels of government and the community-managed organisations responsible for health, housing, employment, education and justice. The Commission has a clear mandate to work across government and other service providers to drive reform across the mental health sector. In doing so, the Commission will operate as a bridge between services to identify new ways they can work together to help people live well in the community.
The Commission began operating on 1 July 2012.
The Commission was launched by the Hon. Jillian Skinner MP, Minister for Health and the Hon. Kevin Humphries MP, Minister for Mental Health, on 15 October 2012. The Commissioner, the Commission's interim staff, and representatives from the government and community mental health sector attended the launch. The Hon. Barry O'Farrell MP, Premier of NSW, congratulated the Commissioner on his appointment.
It is of the utmost importance that mental health systems have a philosophy of recovery as is understood in the mental health sector. This means that people with mental illness move past their illness to make decisions about their lives and to lead meaningful lives in the community. By this I mean having access to jobs, education, a home and those normal expectations that we all have.
The Hon. Kevin Humphries MP, Minister for Mental Health and Healthy Lifestyles, introducing the Mental Health Commission Bill, NSW Parliament, 24 November 2011