Mental Illness Issues

Mental Illness Issues

Crisis Intervention Proposal

Proposal for Intervention in Mental Health Crises

roni levi

A paper presented at Community Justice Coalition and International Commission of Jurists (Aust) event  ‘BEDLAM: A hypothetical journey through the Justice and Mental Health Systems’ held on 29 September 2012.

This leaflet download highlights problem areas of the current Criminal Justice and Mental Health systems and raises possible solutions.

In a situation when a person feels disturbed or others feel disturbed by a person’s behaviour, it is most often handled by social processes in the person’s immediate community. At times, help is requested from outside organizations. The starkest failures have occurred after referral to police.

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Visiting Rights for Consumers

visiting rights

Visiting an incarcerated patient breaks down the social isolation of detainees by providing physical, mental, and emotional support. Maintaining adequate connections with the outside world is an essential right for any patient isolated with limited human contact. In practice, access to patients in the forensic hospital is all but denied. Our history of attempts describes the experience. Mental health patients are legally entitled to rehabilitative care and support, not punishment based treatment. Therefore to withhold visitation rights of a patient, which is an essential aspect of their social devolvement during the rehabilitative process, is an unethical infringement upon patient’s rights. When compared with prisoners, qualification as a mental health patient entitles one to a different standard level of care. It is not only important for the patient, but also their family and the individuals of the community impacted by their disorder.

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9th National Forum of Seclusion and Restraint

Report on the 9th National Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Forum


The 9th National Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Forum in Canberra on the 28th and 29th of November, 2013 addressed the issues surrounding the overpowering of mental health consumers in Australia and offered alternatives to seclusion and restraint. At the end of the first day, the Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Alan Fels, presented the National Seclusion and Restraint Declaration.


The declaration asserted that “seclusion and restraint of people with mental health problems is a human rights issue”, it is “not therapeutic” and it is “distressing to everyone involved.” It called for change.


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National Recognition of Mad in Australia

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.

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Forced Medication in Australia: An International Perspective

Numerous international recommendations and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) condemn forcible medication, yet it continues to be allowed under Australian law. Australia is the only country of the 79 that have ratified UNCRPD to reserve its right to forcibly medicate the disabled. For our media release click here.

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and has done a lot to improve the standards and mechanisms for people with disabilities in Australia. However there is still more to be done according to the recent observations (see links attached*) the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the body of human rights experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention).  


Click here for a PDF copy of this article.

Click here for a DOCX copy of this article.

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10th National Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Forum

Report on the 10th National Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Forum 2015

The 10th National Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Forum was held in Melbourne on 28th and 29th of May 2015. The Forum continues the work to give respect to mental consumers and help with their issues without force being used against them.

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An Open Letter to the Long Bay Treating Team

An open letter to Dr. Antonio Simonelli, head of the Justice Health Treating Team for Malcolm Baker


Re: Malcolm Baker Mental Health Review Tribunal Hearing, 30 April 2015

From: Brett Collins

To: Antonio Simonelli

Date: Tuesday, 28 April 2015 19:40 pm

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New Mental Health Bill Useless

The Sydney Morning Herald article dated 7 November 2014 criticises the Mental Health Bill. The Bill comes before the NSW Legislative Council the week of 10 November. It needs to be stopped and amended.

Our analysis of the Bill is underneath the Sydney Morning Herald article. 

Act now! Contact the Minister Jai Rowell    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (02) 8574 7100 

And shadow minister Barbara Perry  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (02) 9644 6972

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Whealy Inquiry 2017

Justice Action made a submission on 06/10/2017 to the Review of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in respect of forensic patients. The Hon Anthony Whealy QC is conducting the Review and will report to the Minister in December. Click here to access a PDF copy of our submission. 

Basis of the Whealy Inquiry

Emotive, exaggerated news has no place dictating legislation. And yet, that is precisely the kind of irresponsible, ‘if-it-bleeds-it-leads’ reporting which has ultimately prompted a review of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal. Seizing and sensationalising a story about the mother of a victim, the media created a storm the Mental Health Minister Tanya Davies was quick to attempt to appease with the Whealy Inquiry. The findings and recommendations of this Inquiry have become the basis of the proposed Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Bill. Because it is based on an Inquiry whose purpose was to alleviate grossly misdirected public fear and outrage, the proposed Bill does not merely fail to scratch the surface of the grave shortcomings in mental health legislation, it circumvents the true issues entirely.

An article published in the Daily Telegraph on the 1st April, 2017, was a significant propellant for the public outcry that sparked the Whealy Inquiry. This article detailed the story of the mother of a woman who, tragically, was killed by her partner in July 2012. The perpetrator was found not guilty of murder for mental health reasons in 2015, and thus became a forensic patient. It was a brutal crime, and the mother’s pain and loss should by no means be marginalised. Yet in the interest of creating a story with a sympathetic victim and a clear, de-humanised villain who is easy to hate and fear, the article’s focus lands not on the Mental Health Tribunal but the “killers” and “rapists” which, it implies, the Tribunal is putting back on the streets. These “monsters” are the villains of the story, not the insensitive and inefficient bureaucratic system which notified the victim’s mother of upcoming tribunal hearings every six months. The system kept revictimising her.

“Very early on when we started having the tribunal hearings we learnt that they weren’t about my daughter. They’re all about her killer and what he wants. We’re not allowed to say anything,” says ‘Louise’ (not her real name), the victim’s mother. Louise’s anger and frustration is understandable, yet the article directs it towards the easy target; the mentally ill. The focus of tribunal hearings is not on the victim, it is on the care, treatment and control of forensic patients. It would be inappropriate and counter-productive for these hearings to centre around the victim, as Louise feels they should. Yet the Whealy Inquiry was designed to alleviate these kinds of fears. Sadly, these are fears which are more palatable to address than the real problems.

It is very easy to point the finger at the deranged monsters which an insensitive Tribunal is putting back into the community, despite the protests of ignored and marginalised victims and their families. It is a good story to tell, it is easy for the public to become angry and fearful over it, and calling for a review that will place the focus on victims is a beneficial announcement for a politician to make. Yet blaming the mentally ill, rather than the endemic issues within the culture of the NSW Mental Health System, will never result in any meaningful change that will benefit not just forensic patients but victims as well.

The Whealy Inquiry was sparked by the outrage which followed a mother’s pain and frustration over a tragic crime which had occurred many years earlier. Yet the Inquiry fails to address a death which was directly caused by the callous disregard of the NSW Mental Health System for the patients in its care. Miriam Merton died on 3rd June 2014 from horrific injuries sustained during her time in seclusion (the confinement of a patient in a room from which free exit is prevented). Whilst she was in the care of the Mental Health Unit of Lismore Base Hospital, Ms Merton fell over more than 20 times, battered her head against various surfaces, and was left to wonder the corridors of the Lismore facility, naked, splattered with blood and faeces, and totally neglected. Her death was a tragedy, and it was avoidable, and it was a direct result of the systemic failings of the NSW Mental Health System. Ms Merton’s death should not be overshadowed by moral panics incited by the media. It should call attention to the entrenched issues which must be the focus of the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Bill if it is to enact meaningful change, prevent further deaths, improve conditions for patients and facilitate their recovery and rehabilitation.








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