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Michael Riley

Appalling Outcome Report: Rehospitalised - 16th November 2016

Overview

The case of Michael Riley illustrates how the mental health system consistently fails to protect the rights of individuals whose behaviour is perceived as indicative of mental illness. In particular, it sheds light on how interpretations of section 14 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW),1 which stipulates the definition of ‘mentally ill’, are often unsubstantiated by tangible evidence. This results in vague and imprecise outcomes. Mr Riley’s case also demonstrates how the mental health system favours immediate medication-based solutions, as opposed to social support mechanisms. Mental health institutions employ forced medication as a simple ‘fix’ rather than holistic long-term rehabilitation via support systems. In fact, as Mr Riley’s Designated Caregiver, Justice Action was not notified of his forced hospitalisation. The Mental Health Act is designed to protect individuals perceived to have a mental illness.2 Overall, Mr Riley’s situation highlights that mental health institutions show little respect for these safeguards for civil liberties.

Michael Riley was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder in early 2000. Since then, he has been admitted to mental health units on more than 17 occasions. Notably, there is clear agreement amongst health care professionals and family alike, that Mr Riley has never harmed anyone, nor does he pose a threat. Mr Riley lives with his mother, sister and brother-in-law. He also has a seven-year-old daughter called Anna. He has a mixed relationship with his family, who have frequently called the police and ambulance services when he has displayed behaviour indicative of mental illness. Mr Riley has a degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Sydney. Mr Riley was completing his honours thesis when he was reported as having a mental breakdown.

Read more

The States Assault of the Mentally Ill- The Case of Michael Riley

About Michael 

Community Treatment Orders 

Right to Identity- s162 Application to Publish Name 

Media

Michael Riley is warm, bright, gentle giant in his late 30’s. He is currently employed at a union and is the loving father of a four-and-a-half year old daughter who starts school this year. While Michael lives, works and is socially engaged in the community, he is subject to a Community Treatment Order (CTO) which has been consistently renewed for 14 years. Michael does not agree with nor does he consent to this order. His diagnosis is one of Schizoaffective Disorder - a diagnosis he rejects.

Read more

The States Assault of the Mentally Ill- The Case of Michael Riley

 

About Michael 

Community Treatment Orders

Report of Meeting 20.1.14 MHRT and JUSTICE ACTION

Media

Michael Riley is warm, bright, gentle giant in his late 30’s. He is currently employed at a union and is the loving father of a four-and-a-half year old daughter who starts school this year. While Michael lives, works and is socially engaged in the community, he is subject to a Community Treatment Order (CTO) which has been consistently renewed for 14 years. Michael does not agree with nor does he consent to this order. His diagnosis is one of Schizoaffective Disorder - a diagnosis he rejects.

Michael does not have a criminal record and has no history of violent behaviour. His only contact with the police has been sparked by his CTO on the isolated occasions on which he is essentially arrested on the grounds that he is a danger to his own reputation. At times, these arrests have been carried out with such force that Michael has required hospital treatment (see ‘About Michael’ for the full story). Despite his gentle nature, Michael’s experience at the hands of the police and mental health authorities has resulted in him feeling as though he is being treated like a criminal. This is a common experience for people with mental illness and an ongoing concern for Justice Action. 

Michael’s case highlights how vulnerable a person diagnosed with a mental illness is at the hands of mental health authorities. The broad powers of the CTO take away his right to decide what treatment he wants, as well as making his liberty conditional on compliance with the terms of the CTO (s 57). In addition, a mental health team is able to medicate Michael without his consent (s 57). The power vested in mental health staff to forcibly remove Michael from the community for a breach of the CTO, transport him to a declared mental health facility (s 58) and keep him there against his will (s 61) is alarming. Perhaps most disturbing, though, is the ability of the police to intervene in Michael’s life despite the absence of any criminality.

Any resistance displayed by Michael to the terms of the CTO or the treatment forced upon him is seen as a lack of capacity or insight into what is in his best interests. Such objections are taken as confirmation of his diagnosis and act to reinforce the initial justification for the use of force. The CTO essentially takes away Michael’s ability to make his own decisions regarding his treatment and his life while a failure to comply results in his liberty being taken away.

Outraged at his brutalisation at the hands of the mental health authorities and the systemic stripping away of his fundamental human rights, Michael is prepared to talk about his experiences in order to raise awareness of the problems he has encountered in the mental health system. After years of indignity, Michaels’ frustration finally came to a head in November 2013 when his CTO was again renewed, despite the presentation of an advanced directive that had been put together to provide Michael with a community-based, supportive and therapeutic alternative to the strict and overly intrusive CTO.

He is able to clearly and articulately state his resistance to the abuses of power he has experienced. But even this choice could not be made without a battle. Due to the structure of the Mental Health Act, Michael was required to ask the Mental Health Review Tribunal for consent to use his own name in discussing his experiences – a fundamental right that is taken away under the legislation (s 68). The blanket prohibition imposed by the Act is supposedly in place for the protection of the patient who is assumed to be incapable of fully comprehending the damage they may cause themselves by associating their name with a mental illness in the public sphere. In reality, however, this prohibition, which also applies to Tribunal members, functions to reduce the accountability and transparency of the MHRT’s proceedings (see Right to Identity – s 162 Application for more information).

It is this lack of accountability and transparency that Michael is most passionate about exposing and hopefully reforming. He and Justice Action feel that unless there is a significant change in this area, people who are already at a social and often financial disadvantage will continue to have their rights and autonomy taken away from them with little avenue for effective recourse. People who are diagnosed with a mental illness require support and deserve to have their dignity maintained. Paternalistic, interventionist and overbearing systems are more likely to damage their mental state than help to nurture or repair it.

About Michael

HISTORY 

Michael has long been able to manage his own condition, and his own community had no idea that he was classified as mentally ill. It was only after a call by his family to the police out of concern for his wellbeing that he came to the attention of the mental health system. Although they may have believed that they were acting in his best interests, by doing so Michael’s independence and right to make decisions regarding his own wellbeing have been stripped away.

On two separate occasions, quite recently, police arrested Michael for being a “danger to his reputation”. They came to the villa where he is living, handcuffed him and in dragging him out in front of neighbours, using such force that Michael suffered head wounds requiring four staples to close the wound when he was treated at Westmead Hospital. On the second occasion in 2012 they did so in front of a coffee shop he frequents, where neighbours, friends and acquaintances witnessed him being handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police paddy wagon. Until this embarrassment, none of those around him were aware of any mental health issues.

This criminalisation of those who are mentally ill should not be tolerated. The stigma that surrounds mentally ill people has justified abuse of authority and the mistreatment of those who should be supported and protected. Furthermore, regardless of whatever the allegations are or who makes them, the burden of proof lies on Michael to disprove accusations of mental instability. His case throws up in the contradiction of care and coercion.

Read more

The state’s assault on the mentally ill: The case of Michael Riley

 

 

About Michael 

Community Treatment Orders 

Report of Meeting 20.1.14 MHRT and JUSTICE ACTION

Media

 

Michael Riley is warm, bright, gentle giant in his late 30’s. He is currently employed at a union and is the loving father of a four-and-a-half year old daughter who starts school this year. While Michael lives, works and is socially engaged in the community, he is subject to a Community Treatment Order (CTO) which has been consistently renewed for 14 years. Michael does not agree with nor does he consent to this order. His diagnosis is one of Schizoaffective Disorder - a diagnosis he rejects. 

Read more

About Michael

Michael Riley is a gentle and well-educated man in his late 30s who has been taken against his will in and out of state mental health systems and forcibly medicated since February 2000. Since then, his rights have been constantly abused and the authorities treat him like a criminal despite proclaiming that he isn’t. Michael has no criminal record and has never harmed another person or himself in his life, yet he is being treated like he has supposedly breached the Mental Health Act. In his interview with Justice Action, Michael shares his experience at the hands of the mental health system. His size at 6'3" and his unusual beliefs have made him a easy target.


With an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Sydney, Michael is a friendly, highly intelligent and opinionated man. He has family and friends for whom he cares very much, including a young daughter. Justice Action has a long history with Michael Riley going back a number of years over several Tribunal Hearings.

He accepts that the state defines him as a mentally ill person, however Michael rejects this classification and the diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder which dates back over 13 years. He accepts that his behaviour may sometimes be hard for his family to live with, but asserts that it is his right to have his own thoughts and his entitlement to be different than others.

The main concern here is the state’s treatment of those whom they define as mentally ill and whom they deem as a danger to themselves or others. Michael has long been able to manage his own condition, and his own community had no idea that he was classified as mentally ill. It was only after a call by his family to the police out of concern for his well being that he came to the attention of the mental health system. Although they may have believed they were acting in his best interests, by doing so Michael’s independence and right to make decisions regarding his own wellbeing have been stripped away.

On two separate occasions, quite recently, police arrested Michael for being a "danger to his reputation". They came to the villa where he is living, handcuffed him and in dragging him out in front of neighbours, using such force that Michael suffered head wounds requiring four staples to close the wound when he was treated at Westmead Hospital. On the second occasion in 2012 they did so in front of a coffee shop he frequents, where neighbours, friends and acquaintances were all witnessed him being handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police paddy wagon. Until this embarrassment none of those around him were aware of any mental health issues.

This criminalisation of those who are mentally ill should not be tolerated. The stigma that surrounds mentally ill people has justified abuse of authority and the mistreatment of those who should be supported and protected. Furthermore, regardless of whatever the allegations are or who makes them, the burden of proof lies on Michael to disprove accusations of mental instability. His case throws up in the contradiction of care and coercion.

 

 

Report of Meeting 20.1.14 MHRT and JUSTICE ACTION

We look to the issues raised by Dan Howard at the CJC forum “Bedlam...The Way Out” in Parliament House on 19/11/13 to give some direction to the agenda. We really wish to establish a working relationship that isn’t confrontational, but becomes trusting and constructive. As suggested orally at the CJC Forum, most of the issues we need to present publicly and in the courts could be the subject of discussion and negotiation. 

Our role as a change agent has been widely acknowledged and appreciated. We just need results for the benefit of our and the general community.

The Mental Health Review Tribunal, constituted under Ch. 6 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), has functions imposed on it by both its constituting Act and the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW). Its jurisdiction covers the following:

  • Considering the disposition and release of persons acquitted of crimes by reason of mental illness;
  • Determining matters concerning persons found unfit to be tried and prisoners transferred to a mental health facility for treatment;
  • Reviewing the cases of detained patients (both civil and forensic), and long-term voluntary psychiatric patients;
  • Hearing appeals against an authorised medical officer’s refusal to discharge a patient;
  • Making, varying and revoking community treatment orders;
  • Determining applications for certain treatments and surgery;
  • and making orders for financial management where people are unable to manage their own financial affairs.

Read more

The state’s assault on the mentally ill: The case of Michael Riley


 

Michael Riley is a gentle and well-educated man in his late 30s who has been taken against his will in and out of state mental health systems and forcibly medicated since August 2009. Since then, his rights have been constantly abused and the authorities treat him like a criminal despite proclaiming that he isn’t. Michael has no criminal record and has never harmed another person or himself in his life, yet he is being treated like he has supposedly breached the Mental Health Act. In his interview with Justice Action, Michael shares his experience at the hands of the mental health system and what should be done so that one’s rights are protected and such abuses of authority no longer occur.

Read more

 

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