Psychiatrists call on Victorian Government to urgently review safety of mental health care settings

Victoria’s current public mental health and wellbeing system lacks capacity, both in terms of infrastructure and workforce, to manage its core business - caring for those with mental illness and psychological distress, the peak body for psychiatrists in Victoria says.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Victorian Branch is calling on the State Government – and all parties in the lead up to the election - to commit to an urgent review and infrastructure development of all Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services and their facilities in the state to meet the needs of the Victorian population.

Victoria requires mental health facilities that are modern, welcoming and fit-for-purpose. This is crucial in order to ensure Victorians are given equitable and timely access to the safest, evidence based, good quality service in the public health system.

"We need to ensure our facilities are designed to deliver the best possible outcomes for everyone, but at the moment that’s not always the case,” said Dr Astha Tomar RANZCP Victorian Chair.

“Many of the existing inpatient units in the Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing System are old and have not been built with a focus on the physical and psychological safety of patients, staff and practitioners and have not been renovated or refurbished for years. These inpatient mental health units have not been able to serve the purpose of providing safe therapeutic spaces which should be their primary focus. 

“In Victoria we’re seeing poorly designed facilities coupled with a stretched workforce. It’s a combination that simply can’t deliver the best quality support Victorians deserve.

“We need to make sure that our mental health care settings are purpose-built and designed in consultation with the people on the frontline – consumers, carers and health professionals. There’s a growing body of evidence that points to the important role the physical environment plays when it comes to the wellbeing of patients, their families and healthcare staff.

“The review needs to be all-encompassing, including looking at the options for female-only units. It is critical to ensure safety and privacy for women and a step towards gender sensitive mental health and wellbeing services.

“In addition to ensuring we have appropriate facilities we also need to be working to increase our mental health workforce capacity. It’s no secret that Victoria needs a significant boost in workforce numbers in order to keep up with demand. That doesn’t just mean attracting more workers, but also retaining our existing workforce. Psychiatrist shortage across the system is being acutely felt and it’s critical that we look at strategies to help solve that.

Dr Tomar said there is also evidence and research that shows a high correlation between the physical environment of inpatient mental health units and use of restrictive practices.

“The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System’s ambition of minimising the use of restrictive practices such as restraint and seclusion is also linked to things such as the environmental design and the safety features of physical spaces in the inpatient units which needs to be accounted for.

The Victorian Branch of the RANZCP is urging the State Government and Opposition to:

  • Undertake an assessment of all Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services of their adequacy and ability to provide safe and therapeutic environments for people seeking support from these services
  • Refurbish area mental health and wellbeing services to ensure specialist care is delivered in safe and appropriate spaces that are welcoming and therapeutic for consumers, carers and staff.
  • Commit to ensure inpatient and community care components of mental health and wellbeing services receive capital investment on an equitable basis to be welcoming, therapeutic and are fit for purpose. 

“The Victorian Government has demonstrated its commitment towards delivering on the vision and recommendations which came out of the Royal Commission to overhaul the whole mental health and wellbeing system and we commend the many strides made in that direction. 

“We look forward to working with the government collaboratively to ensureVictorian community is able to access specialist clinical care at their most vulnerable times of struggling with mental illnesses and that the system is fit-for-purpose to deliver that care,” Dr Tomar said.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For media enquiries or to arrange an interview contact +61 437 315 911, or email

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or

In Aotearoa New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, 1737 is here to help, for free - Mental Health. You can also contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or   


More news & views