Miriam Merten Mental Hospital Death Inquiry Media Release 22nd December 2017

Whitewash Merten Death Mental Report

Media Release: Friday December 22nd 2017

The Review by the Chief Psychiatrist following the death of patient Miriam Merten at Lismore Hospital, made very serious criticisms of the NSW Mental Health System, but didn’t make a single recommendation that would prevent its reoccurrence. The 19 Recommendations missed the point entirely, just offering more money without changing any of the dynamics. That is unsurprising as the problems are deep-seated cultural ones, and the so called independent review is by insiders who are part of the system” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

“The Review agreed that the NSW Mental Health System 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)” said mental health advocate Douglas Holmes.

“Miriam Merten’s death provided a window into the closed system due to the objective CCTV evidence and media exposure on the Telegraph’s front page and Channel 7 news. The Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies in announcing the Inquiry on May 12 said that ‘she closed her eyes because the vision was too horrible’. Otherwise the Coroner and everyone else would have moved on, as they had done since 2014 when she died” said Mr Collins.

“Ongoing objective accountability, removal of legislative protections such as s.195 MH Act, computers and phones in seclusion areas, alternatives to forced treatment, and independent consumer advocacy with mandated peer worker roles are all essential. These interventions cost nothing while returning power to the person at the centre of the concern rather than remaining with callous staff and indifferent managers. We owe that to our own self-respect as well as to future distressed and vulnerable Miriam Mertens” said Mr Holmes.

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