Abuse in mental health normal
Media release Wednesday May 16, 2018
The callous disrespect exposed in Lismore Hospital to dying Miriam Merten will continue. Nothing in Health’s Implementation Plan will change the culture. There will be no ongoing objective accountability, no removal of legislative protections such as s.195 MH Act, no computers and phones in seclusion areas, no alternatives to forced treatment, and no independent consumer advocacy. The timetable shows no urgency for consumers getting on Committees and no structure for electing representatives. The endemic corruption of mental health, with noses in the NSW Health Department’s annual trough of $23 billion is disgraceful to all those who don’t demand structural changes after such an exposure.
The Review by the Chief Psychiatrist made very serious criticisms of the NSW Mental Health System. It said that the NSW Mental Health culture lacked compassion and humanity (p7) or real interest in the individual beyond risk management (p22). The System used coercive compliance, had no internal oversight even after the Merten death (p29), lacked guidelines, had little evidence of engagement with consumers and carers (p35), little involvement in care plans (p.36), had no examples of the necessary leadership required to give high-quality compassionate care (p24). The Review said that peer worker support was very limited with rare access despite being a vital resource to lessen seclusion and restraint (p33). It requires urgent action.
The case of Saeed Dezfouli shows that abuse of power is endemic to mental health, regarding the disabled as easy targets without rights. Locked in the Forensic Hospital Saeed has been refused access to a computer or legal information even though he has to argue for his freedom against the barristers of the Attorney General and Justice Health on a difficult point of law. The Medical Superintendent Dr Ellis stated that Saeed could handwrite his Submissions, would have no more than two hours a week with a computer, could borrow necessary books from public libraries, and would have no more than 30 minutes a week to access the internet, with a staff member using the mouse and keyboard. As a prisoner, he would get a computer and information.
Saeed’s case has international interest, where due process and the Rule of Law must be maintained. Justice Health submitted to the Mental Tribunal its concern about further criticism of Australia from the UN Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with continuing media attention. It said that Saeed is costing them too much money and causing staff to be frustrated because he isn’t submissive despite being forcibly medicated. He and Miriam are examples of thousands of others where Health has lost its obligation to be person centred. It needs external and consumer monitoring as effective as the CCTV and media exposure for Miriam.