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Sydney Declaration confirms shared commitments and opportunities for international collaboration on mental health

17 May 2013

The Australian National Mental Health Commission has released a declaration by international, national and state mental health commissioners, confirming their commitment to address five priority areas of mental health.

The declaration is an outcome of a meeting the National Mental Health Commission hosted in Sydney in March, which was attended by representatives from the mental health commissions of Australia, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and the United States as well as each Australian state and territory.

The ‘Sydney Declaration’ outlines opportunities for collaboration to support and drive change, and shared commitments on:

  • Indigenous mental health
  • Seclusion and restraint
  • Work and mental health
  • Knowledge exchange
  • International benchmarking

The Chair of Australia’s National Mental Health Commission, Prof. Allan Fels said: “This agreement articulates some initial priorities, including moving away from practices of seclusion and restraint, and emphasising the importance of work in mental and social wellbeing.

“These issues are of shared interest and align with a number of the National Mental Health Commission’s focus areas. Our hope is that the declaration will lead to increased opportunities for cross-border collaboration that drives change and helps people living with mental health difficulties lead the kinds of lives they aspire to.

“Importantly, the Commission has already started to demonstrate its commitment to these priorities. We have called for mental health to be included as an additional target in the Closing the Gap program and are working with others and the business sector to develop initiatives aimed at improving mental wellbeing in the workplace. We will also soon be calling for evidence of best practice in reducing and eliminating seclusion and restraint to help identify good practice treatment approaches.”

The President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Ms Louise Bradley said: “This agreement gives international importance to promoting mental health in the workplace and knowledge exchange – two focus areas the Mental Health Commission of Canada has worked hard to move forward.

“The Commission is committed to supporting the principles put forward in the Sydney Declaration and to continued collaboration to promote excellence and create change.”

The Mental Health Commissioner of NSW, Mr John Fenely said: “The establishment of mental health commissions worldwide reflects growing recognition that people with mental illness can easily fall through the cracks of health systems better suited to physical health problems.

“Colleagues from commissions in different states and countries experience many of the same issues in advancing the needs of this vulnerable group of people in a crowded public agenda, and have much to learn from each other. Our agreement will give us additional authority as we seek to advance these issues in our individual jurisdictions.”

Opportunities for ongoing dialogue will continue in Perth in July for Australian based organisations, followed by a meeting in the United Kingdom in June 2014 during the next International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership’s international exchange programme and network event.

You can view the Sydney Declaration here.

"Even the most disadvantaged Australians should be able to lead a 'contributing life,' whatever that means for them and this simple goal will be our touchstone and yardstick."

Chair Prof Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

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