I consider it a privilege to be Tasmania's first Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister. Having a dedicated mental health and wellbeing portfolio demonstrates the government is increasing its focus on these important issues.
My own long-held interest in these areas stems from my experience as a Lifeline telephone counsellor and trainer. In many ways these experiences shaped my thinking and reinforced existing values, which had a major influence on why I stood for parliament. Truly hearing the experiences of people in our communities who live with mental health challenges in particular, cemented my desire to make a real difference.
As the Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister, I am responsible for planning, strategy and delivery of the full spectrum of mental health supports and services, from prevention and early intervention through to treatment and support.
It is important to provide the right mix of preventative, community and acute care options, which is why our mental health plan is evidence-based and aligns with the Fifth National Mental Health Plan.
My Wellbeing portfolio is about preventive health more broadly, and includes responsibility for the Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan. Priority areas include reducing smoking rates, promoting and improving healthy eating and physical activity, building community connections, and screening and management of chronic conditions.
Continuing to integrate mental health services so that support is there for people at any stage of their life, and in the right place at the right time, is a priority.
The government has already signalled its commitment to improving mental health with a $104 million investment over six years, and the development of the Rethink Mental Health plan. I acknowledge and thank my predecessor Minister Ferguson for this important initiative.
Increasingly our investment is focusing on community support options, and a reduced reliance on hospital emergency departments. I'm looking forward to progressing the $9.2 million redevelopment of the Peacock Centre and the construction of a new community based facility at St John's Park, which together will provide 27 new mental health beds.
The Mental Health Hospital in the Home service currently being trialled is another exciting development, which is allowing people who otherwise may have had to be admitted to hospital to now receive intensive short-term support in their home.
Mental ill-health can impact on anyone at any age. We know about three quarters of all mental illness has started before people turn 25. Like the rest of the country, in the past few years Tasmania has seen an increase in the numbers of children presenting to emergency departments around the state requiring treatment for mental illness.
As Education Minister I have a particular interest in the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Evidence shows that students who have greater wellbeing are more likely to have better educational outcomes, and are likely to have positive mental and physical wellbeing throughout their lives and be more productive.
That's why the wellbeing of children and students is a focus in our schools, with the launch last year of our first Child and Student Wellbeing Strategy. This strategy supports a universal approach to wellbeing, while recognising that some learners, such as those impacted by trauma, may need additional support to ensure they can engage in learning and the school community.
We have committed more than $7 million over four years to build support in schools for students impacted by trauma and students with emotional and behavioural challenges.
This is in addition to other initiatives such as the reintroduction of school nurses, which is also making a positive difference for students. By providing the right support in our schools, we can intervene early and reduce the risk of students developing more acute mental and physical conditions as an adult. I look forward to exploring how the Departments of Education and Health can partner to improve the wellbeing of our young people. I also see the opportunity for collaboration with my other portfolio area of Sport and Recreation.
As the Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister I will be keen to encourage collaboration across government agencies as well as with non-government community organisations to increase awareness of mental health issues, reduce stigma and ensure effective and responsive support and services for those living with mental illness and their families.
Likewise, I am committed to building strong collaborative relationships across government and community, to ensure better outcomes for people living with addiction related illnesses.
Overcoming mental illness can be incredibly challenging for both the individual and the people around them. I am determined to work with and listen to stakeholders and the broader community, to ensure there is a strong focus on the delivery of high quality care and support, giving people the very best chance to lead happy and positive lives recovered from, or able to successfully manage, their mental illness.
- Jeremy Rockliff is Tasmania's Deputy Premier, Education and Training, Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Sport and Recreation Minister.