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Justice Action's particular concerns are with the use of prisons to solve mental health problems.  There is an urgent need to create community based care, with the support of families and people with experience, instead of locking away the problems, medicating individuals at the cost of $205,000 a person a year.  The stigma that surrounds mental health has to be reduced so people who have mental illness in our community can be effectively treated.  It is the position of Justice Action and our allies that putting these disadvantaged individuals in prison is not the answer.

The Burdekin inquiry into mental health in 1994 concluded that mental health has been criminalised in Australia. The prison system has become the inappropriate de facto treatment centre for many mentally ill people. A 1997 investigation into the CHS mental health services recognises that the law must be changed as the present arrangements restrict the opportunity to provide appropriate medical care and rehabilitation to those offenders suffering from mental disorder and any contemplated changes to improve services for mentally disordered offenders may be facilitated by changes in the law to the benefit of society and individuals. (The Blueglass report) That report also notes the appallingly low level of psychiatric staff and occupational therapists.

FIGHT FOR MENTAL HEALTH DOLLARS
Criminalising and causing fear of the mentally ill drives a large industry. Dr Adrian Keller's statement (SMH 13/7/11) scan is typical and exposes the hunger for the mental health dollar irrespective of the interests of mental health in the community. Media Release 15/7/11

FALSE STIGMA OF VIOLENCE
* The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems. In fact, 95 per cent of homicides are committed by people who have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem.[10]

* Contrary to popular belief, the incidence of homicide committed by people diagnosed with mental health problems has stayed at a fairly constant level since the 1990s. [11]

* The fear of random unprovoked attacks on strangers by people with mental health problems is unjustified. This has been highlighted by a US finding that patients with psychosis who are living in the community are 14 times more likely to be the victims of a violent crime than to be arrested for such a crime. [12]

* According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. [13] Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only one per cent of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness. [14]

* People with mental health problems are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others: 90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress. [15]

* People with serious mental illness are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator. One study found that more than one in four people with a severe mental illness had been a victim of crime in one year. [16]

[10] Kings College London, Institute of Psychiatry, 2006, Risk of violence to other people,
[11] National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness – Annual report: England and Wales 2009
[12] Walsh E et al. 2003, ‘Prevalence of violent victimisation in severe mental illness’, British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 183, pp. 233–238.
[13] Home Office, 2009, Crime in England and Wales 2008/09, Vol. 1, Findings from the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime, Statistical Bulletin, 11/09, vol. 1.
[14] Coleman K, Hird C, Povey D. 2006, ‘Violent Crime Overview, Homicide and Gun Crime 2004/2005’, Home Office Statistical Bulletin,
[15] Hall D et al. 1998, ‘Thirteen-year follow-up of deliberate self-harm, using linked data’, British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 172: pp. 239–242.
[16] Teplin L, McClelland M, Abram K, Weiner D, 2005, ‘Crime victimization in adults with severe mental illness’, Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 62, pp. 911–921.

 

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