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Mental health patients possess the same human rights as every other individual in the world. According to both international and national law, they should be treated as citizens entitled to community support. Mental health facilities have a duty to care for patients in a humane, respectful manner. However the reality is that they are granted unbounded discretionary power to force vulnerable patients to take medication whenever the professionals believe it is appropriate. Overpowering the consumer in the form of seclusion and restraint has recently been examined by the 10th National Forum for the Reduction of Seclusion and Restraint, held in May 2015, as well as at the 9th National Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Forum, in 2013. It is the easiest management tool to keep people sedated sitting or lying down, and not help them to recovery.

Kerry O'Malley

Kerry O’Malley is a 71-year-old woman whose involvement in the mental health system over the last 47 years has revealed the extent to which draconian control and dismissal of individual autonomy is entrenched in the culture of Australia’s mental health system. She has been subjected multiple times to Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) and forcibly medicated with severe physical and social side effects. Working with Justice Action, Kerry was successful in having a CTO removed by the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal in May 2015. However the Health Department once again imposed a CTO on her in April this year, but the Tribunal refused to revoke it in an August hearing. For more information, click here

Abuse and Neglect

The sustained use of seclusion and restraint reflects the need for systemic change in Australia’s mental health system. Improving mental health care hence requires the prioritisation of consumer autonomy and the development of alternative care practices. Greater oversight and accountability must be achieved to ensure that out-dated and harmful practices are abandoned in favour of treatment that takes a patient-centred and evidence-based approach.

Miriam Merten Overview

Justice Action submitted a report to the NSW Health Department Inquiry after the death of Miriam Merten, mother of two and a mental health patient from Lismore Base Hospital. Miriam died on 3rd June 2014 from injuries sustained during her time in seclusion. The horrific nature of Miriam’s treatment was evidenced with shocking CCTV footage of her final hours, exposing the lack of care from the NSW Health Staff at Lismore Base Hospital along with their abject failure to intervene in her untimely death.

Ms Merten died in 2014 from a brain injury after she fell more than 20 times whilst in the care of the Mental Health Unit of Lismore Base Hospital. The coronial inquest into Ms Merten’s death found that Ms Merton died from a "traumatic brain injury caused by numerous falls and the self-beating of her head on various surfaces, the latter not done with the intention of taking her life". Disturbing CCTV footage of the neglected, blood and faeces splattered, Ms Merten wondering the corridors of the Lismore facility on the night of her death have emerged, and be viewed at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-12/nsw-government-inquiry-lismore-mum-miriam-merten-death/8521198

Justice Action Publications

Mental Health Accountability and Chemical Restraint: Research and Recommendationsis a Justice Action study into mental health consumer preferences regarding medication and the willingness of authorities to consider collecting this data. 

Mad in Australia: This publication exposes the history of abuse of mental health patients in historical and cultural context. It identifies how the culture of doctors forcing medication on mental health patients began, in breach of their ethical obligations, and against the evidence of its effectiveness. It also offers solutions.

The Emperor has no clothes: Justice Health’s lack of concern for the welfare of its clients is blindingly obvious and yet the health industry still pretends it is fulfilling its obligations.
Justice Action's paper presented at Justice Health in Australia: Equity in Health Care, 15 August 2012. Available in mp3 format here.

The Our Pick Report: This report written by Justice Action concerning the state of mental health in Australia. Justice Action decided to focus on the mental health area after it had become apparent that a new strategy was required to defend community interest and prisoners' rights against the law and the added effects of tension, boredom, powerlessness and isolation occuring in imprisonment. Many prisoners become forensic patients or remain in prison under medication: the rates of major mental illness in prisons have been found to be three times higher tha that of the general population. This report confront the abuse of 'care' in mental health and prisons.

Mental illness policy issues: There are serious failings in the way that public policy addresses mental illness in our society. The most serious failings as well as other inherent issues within mental health have been identified that is broadly reflected in Mental Illness Policy Issues. The single greatest cause of distress and difficulty; to the greatest proportion of those living with mental illness, is the way our society responds to them.

Media Releases

Media Release: Mental Tribunal Permits Torture


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