Justice Action has achieved a considerable victory! This comes from the National Mental Health Commission who, in their 2nd Report Card, has quoted our work "Mad in Australia" as expressing the voices of the people in the justice system regarding mental health. It says that those views and stated needs must be incorporated in any promising practice for changed policies in a failed system, costing up to $1,000,000 a person a year.
This means that we will now be listened to, rather than excluded as an illegitimate outsider, with no power, especially regarding the most unpopular and socially excluded people in the community. This acknowledgement is now being used as leverage in negotiations with bureaucracies within the criminal justice sytem and government.
Here are some links to how important this is, and more detailed information regarding the facts.
The National Mental Health Commission
Australia’s first National Mental Health Commission. The Commission was set up on 1 January 2012 to report independently to the Prime Minister on what’s working and what’s not. A link to their webpage and their objectives can be found here.
Objectives (from NMHC website)
Our job involves three main things:
- Reporting: We make an annual Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention which shows how all sectors are contributing to our mental health and wellbeing. This will give Australians a better idea of where we are doing well and where we need to do better. As well as looking at the facts and figures, we also tell the real and everyday experiences of Australians. Our first Report Card comes out at the end of 2012.
- Advising: We use our influence, relationships and reports to give honest and independent advice on where and how Australia can better support people with a lived experience of mental health difficulties, their families and support people.
- Collaborating: We work with others across all sectors to influence positive change. We also encourage more collaborative ways of working, by helping to bring people together who have the same goals and the same vision.
The following link to the Commission’s website outlines the section of the report where “Mad in Australia” (accessible here) is mentioned as an important source and at the forefront of the empowerment of those within the mental health sector. The extract from the report is also given below.
The justice system and mental health
The Commission is highly concerned about how we as a society criminalise people who live with a mental health difficulty. We know that people living with mental illness are over-represented in our prisons, in the number of police incidents and in the number of police shootings.205, 206
What the evidence shows is good practice
While our states and territories have adopted different practices, worryingly little is known about how these align with best practice approaches.
Furthermore, the evidence of good practice is underdeveloped. We do not fully understand how access to treatment and ongoing support can reduce relapse into ongoing crime or improve mental health in the long term.
Despite the massive burden of mental illness borne by this population and their heavy use of public services, there is a paucity of research to identify good practice, what interventions are most effective and what works best for different groups of people who come into contact with the justice system. Some specific studies and some services have been positive.216
The only evidence we do have is from isolated examples of promising practice. Some of these are models that focus on diverting people into earlier treatment and support, or funding into early intervention approaches.
Listening to people with lived experience
Promising practice must incorporate the views and stated needs of the people who will be affected by it. This is no different in the justice system, and we are encouraged that the voices of people with a mental illness in the justice system are being heard and documented in reports such as Not for Service Experiences of Injustice and Despair in Mental Health Care in Australia81 and Mad in Australia: The state's assault on the mentally ill.217
It is also positive to see that the recent prison health surveys incorporate self‑reporting by prisoners about their own health.