30 January 2018

The gruesome reality inside NSW mental health units

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 Photo: ABC News
A recent review into the conditions inside NSW mental health units has revealed the shocking reality for mental health patients.

The report, led by NSW chief psychiatrist Dr Murray Wright, was commissioned by the State Government earlier this year following shocking revelations of the death of Miriam Merten in 2014 at a NSW hospital.

CCTV footage showed how Merten had been locked into a dark room without any food or water, naked and chemically restrained. She fell and hit her head more than 20 times and was later found dead.

The inquiry told of how “consumers and carers described services that traumatise and show a lack of compassion and humanity.”

“Many reported feeling dehumanised and stripped of their sense of autonomy, agency, dignity and human rights,” the report stated.

According to Dr Wright’s review, patients were placed in seclusion units almost 3,700 times in NSW during the last financial year.  The average lock-up length was five and a half hours and rooms were often deemed as unhygienic and patients were left without access to bathroom.

“Some consumers and carers reported that seclusion and restraint were used as a threat or a punishment; as a means of enforcing compliance and obedience,” the report stated.

“This form of coercive compliance has more in common with custodial correction systems than it does with a therapeutic setting .”

The report made the recommendation that there’s a great need to address the cultural problems within NSW emergency. Patients were often met by discriminating and unprofessional attitudes from staff.

The review identified seven key themes for improvement:
  • Culture and leadership
  • Patient safety
  • Accountability and governance
  • Workforce
  • Consumer and carer participation
  • Data
  • The built and therapeutic environment
Written by: Mimmie Wilhemson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

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