Australia

Victoria's mental health system is 'broken', royal commissioners say

Former federal MP Andrew Robb will share his experience of depression at a Victorian inquiry. (AAP)

The Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System has started public hearings.

Victoria's mental health system is broken and more of the same will not fix it, royal commissioners say.

Chair Penny Armytage said the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for reform.

"A clear message emerges: doing more of the same will not be enough," she said in opening the inquiry's public hearings on Tuesday.

"The calling of this royal commission is also an acknowledgement that the mental health system is broken."

Ms Armytage said one person had told the inquiry: "We don't want to fill in the potholes. We want a new road."

Ms Armytage said the four commissioners had been struck by the evidence shared with them so far, particularly involving young people.

"We find this evidence confronting, that our young people, our very young people, are not enjoying good mental health and are increasingly experiencing high levels of distress," she said.

The inquiry is scheduled to hear from four witnesses on its first day, including former trade minister Andrew Robb and ex-AFL footballer Wayne Schwass.

Schwass battled depression for most of his 15-year football career playing for North Melbourne and Sydney, and now advocates for mental health awareness.

Mr Robb, who served as Australia's trade and investment minister before retiring from politics in 2016, revealed publicly in 2009 that he suffered from depression.

Two community members will also share their lived experience of mental health on the opening hearing day.

One-in-five Victorians experience mental illness, and the stigma attached to mental health and suicide prevention will be among the key themes of the initial hearings.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the royal commission is the first of its kind in Australia and will help drive change to ensure people get the services they need and when they need them.

"We established the royal commission because we know the system is broken," he said.

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