National mental health information priorities 2nd edition

1.1 - The central place of information in the National Mental Health Strategy

Page last updated: June 2005

Information development has been central to National Mental Health Strategy since it began in 1992. There were several factors that made this an imperative.

Firstly, information about mental health services was not readily available to the public, contributing to the stigma commonly associated with mental disorders and their treatment. Making a wide range of information about mental health accessible was seen as an important first step towards tackling community misunderstanding and building trust in the reforms foreshadowed by the Strategy.

Secondly, the absence of a consistent data collection about what services are delivered and who receives them isolated mental health services from the mainstream health system, where significant advances had been made in the use of information over the decade that preceded the National Mental Health Strategy.

Thirdly, building an information base to monitor changes in mental health care was essential to meet the accountability requirements of the National Mental Health Strategy. In endorsing the Strategy, Health Ministers agreed that an important aspect of the reform process was to ensure that progress of all jurisdictions was monitored and reported publicly on a regular basis.

Fourthly, local clinical information systems were not in place in most Australian mental health services at the beginning of the Strategy, limiting the extent to which initiatives to improve service quality could be facilitated by modern information tools.

Each of these factors served as a barrier to the achievement of many of the goals of the Strategy that depended upon an 'informed mental health system', where information is available to guide decisions at all levels – to inform consumers about the services they receive, support clinicians in their treatment decisions, help managers manage, and inform policy makers in planning and funding services.