Recommendations relating to Healthcare Services

Access to healthcare is critical to supporting physical and mental health and wellbeing. Mental health issues often occur alongside physical problems. Likewise, physical issues are commonly experienced in relation to a background of mental health issues.

A health system that is supportive and sensitive to complex mental health issues is one that is likely to contribute to whole-of-self health and wellbeing for people with lived experience, and for those around them.


“We need to stop treating mental health as something separate to physical health. There’s just health. I should be treated the same having bipolar disorder as if I had a chronic ‘physical’ illness. There isn’t a difference: the brain is just another one of the body’s organs.”

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Victoria


For many people affected by complex mental health issues, accessing healthcare services can be problematic. Many survey participants reported instances of their mental health diagnosis dominating their interactions with health services, resulting in neglect of their physical healthcare needs. Some responses indicated that physical health needs were ignored or dismissed due to the presence of complex mental health issues. This deterred people from disclosing their mental health needs or seeking treatment for their physical health conditions. Other people reported that health services did not adequately take into consideration their mental health needs, particularly in relation to the provision of trauma-informed care.

The data collected indicates a need for building capacity across the health workforce to ensure clinicians understand the needs of people affected by complex mental health issues, particularly across key parts of the health system. This includes ensuring that healthcare settings are welcoming and supportive for people with diverse needs. Improving the interface between physical and mental health services to ensure that people affected by complex mental health issues are supported within both settings and treated holistically is crucial to improving health outcomes.


"I am scared of being forced to have treatment for mental health when I seek physical health treatment."

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Queensland


Recommendations for action 

  1. Deliver education opportunities (informed by individuals with lived experience) and trauma-informed care training for the health workforce to build mental health literacy among health workers – including doctors, nurses and paramedics – to a level that corresponds with physical health literacy among that cohort. 
  2. Provide physical health screening within mental health services to better meet the physical health needs of people affected by complex mental health issues.
  3. Increase availability of the lived experience workforce across key parts of the health system, such as emergency departments.