Department of Health

Victoria’s mental health services annual report 2019-20

Key messages

  • Victoria’s mental health services annual report 2019-20 is a tool for health services, staff, advocates, carers, consumers and the broader community to better understand the Victorian public mental health system and the services available for people with a mental illness.
  • The report includes data on various aspects of our services and system, reflecting the Victorian Government's commitment to accountability and transparency.
  • It contributes to community understanding of, and discussion about, Victoria's public mental health services and system, and the experiences of people with mental illness, their families and carers.


The Victorian Government is committed to reporting annually to parliament and the community on the performance of Victoria's state-funded mental health services.

Victoria's mental health services annual report 2019-20 is the fifth to be tabled. It provides an overview of Victorian Government-funded mental health services and the Victorians who accessed them for treatment, care and support in 2019-20, and of the significant impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the delivery of public mental health services.

Victoria's mental health services annual report 2019-20 also provides an overview of the initiatives being delivered as part of Victoria's 10-year mental health plan, including work to reduce suicide in local communities, support and strengthen our mental health workforce and improve resilience, social and emotional wellbeing and mental health in the Victorian Aboriginal community.

Monitoring progress and reporting on outcomes under the 10-year mental health plan helps us understand the impact of programs and services on people's lives over time. The report contains results for indicators in the 10-year mental health plan outcomes framework, which include measures relating to system performance, clinical outcomes and consumer experience.


Public mental health services in 2019-20

The mental health data we collect helps us to understand who accesses public mental health services (and how), the service settings and the circumstances in which treatment is provided. It also tells us about demand for, and use of, services.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way Victorians have lived their lives in 2020. This has affected all aspects of our lives, including our mental health and how public mental health services have been delivered. In looking at the data for 2019-20, the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are evident, and are discussed in detail in the report.

Despite an initial drop in people seeking mental health treatment when the coronavirus (COVID-19) first impacted Victoria, the 2019-20 data shows a small increase in the overall number of consumers, a 5.1 per cent increase in service contacts, and 5.0 per cent increase for total service hours. Consistent with previous years, the data shows that adult inpatient services were under pressure to meet demand in 2019–20.

Download the report to find out more.

Supporting Victorians through crisis

The 2019–20 financial year has seen unparalleled disruption to the lives of Victorians. Dry conditions following drought in 2019 contributed to a severe bushfire season in summer 2019-20, which devastated many Victorian communities. Just as Victorians emerged from the bushfires, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented the state with the biggest health challenge of a generation.

The mental health system has responded to the needs of Victorians through this time. In drought-affected areas, mental health service providers coordinated and provided services, with a focus on mental health capacity building and resilience. In bushfire-affected areas, psychosocial and mental health support services were established, which included access for communities to early intervention, specialist mental health treatment and advisory services.

In addressing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the service system response included a wide range of initiatives to support the workforce and to ensure mental health services continued to be provided to consumers while ensuring infection control and prevention measures were in place. A large increase in the use of telehealth services has enabled service providers to continue to provide community-based services to Victorians during the pandemic.

Supporting people experiencing housing stress and homelessness has been a focus area. Importantly, engagement across jurisdictions, especially with the Commonwealth Government, has been critical in responding to both the bushfires and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Victoria has worked closely with the Commonwealth and other state governments to develop a National mental health and wellbeing pandemic response plan.

Mental health system review and reform

Against the backdrop of significant disruption due to bushfires and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2019–20, the mental health system in Victoria is continuing to undergo review and has begun system reform. The interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System was released in November 2019, signalling the intent for reform of the mental health system. Mental Health Reform Victoria was established to progress this work.

Providing advice about mental health reform in Victoria is a key focus area for the Mental Health Ministerial Advisory Committee as it considers recommendations from the royal commission and other federal and state inquiries. Additionally, while the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for people with a severe, enduring psychosocial disability was completed during 2019–20, there are still several reforms underway as the NDIS evolves. These continue to impact on Victorian participants and the providers who support them.

Consumer consultants – lived experience representation for systemic change in public mental health services

Lived experience representation in the workforce is an enormously valuable component of the public mental health service system. This representation includes consumer and carer consultants and peer support workers. The department introduced the roles of consumer and carer consultants within services to ensure that consumer, family and carer perspectives inform all aspects of service planning and delivery. The roles play a separate but equally important function to the individual peer support workforce, in that their focus is improvement at the health service and system levels.

Stacey is a consumer consultant who also holds a separate role as a peer support worker (post discharge) with Bendigo Mental Health Services. This area mental health service provides psychiatric care over an area a quarter of the size of Victoria. This is an expanding regional health service offering a range of clinical services to consumers across all ages through inpatient, bed-based, specialist units and community teams in the Loddon Mallee region.

With a clinical background, Stacey never thought she would become a consumer of public mental health services and then go on to represent other consumers to make system change and support her peers. After years of her own acute mental illness and ongoing recovery, she now uses her insights to help others. Although at times representing and advocating for consumers at higher management levels can be daunting, it enables her to make real change in the lives of others.

As a peer support worker, she works in the community team and provides a mutual connection and support to adult consumers after an admission to help with recovery, staying well and reducing relapse. She also co-designed and runs the Living Well Peer Led Group for the community team’s consumers. She finds her consumer roles equally if not more rewarding than her previous clinical career. She works alongside clinical staff and feels her role is valued and consumer perspective respected. She is passionate about regional consumers’ care and is excited about proposed wider mental health service reform and further expansion of the lived experience workforce.

Reviewed 27 October 2022


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