People with Mental Health Issues Mistreated in Australia

In many developing parts of the world, those identified as having mental health difficulties are often treated with less than ideal care, both by state authorities and by the public at large. But sometimes, seemingly backward and unconscionable treatment is given to mental health clients in parts of the world not usually associated with poor care. Most recently, Australia has stood out as being in dire need of greater education about the nature of mental health concerns, and how to address them among the population. This need has risen from a just-published report outlining the fact that during the last year, in excess of 900 people experiencing a mental health crisis were incarcerated in prison cells or otherwise inadequately detained by police and other authorities.

In the Australian state of Victoria, where the questionable treatment was enacted, the chief psychologist has spoken out about the incidents, decrying them as breaches of human rights and noting that those in need of mental health care should be treated within a health care environment-–not in a prison cell. The report as well as its publicity are hoped to rally support for the allocation of greater funds, legislation, and attention paid to mental health services within Australia. Though resources may be lacking, especially during periods of economic struggle, the poor understanding of mental health issues exhibited by law enforcement officers and other authority figures suggests that education will play a key role in resolving the problem.

Facing social stigmas and personal qualms about mental health care is a challenge faced by many of those who decide to seek healing through professional services, but being barred from such services and instead treated as a criminal is likely an experience capable of exacerbating taxes on well-being. Improving Australia’s mental health services in the wake of this report should be among the country’s top priorities.


© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Georgia


    November 16th, 2009 at 11:23 AM

    How sad to learn that those who are in the need of the most help are so often those who are abused by their caregivers.

  • Hayden


    November 16th, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    I’m surprised to hear that such things happen in places like Australia… But as you have said, awareness will surely improve the conditions and also, the law enforcement officers need to understand that prisoners are humans too and they do not deserve apathy!

  • vincent


    November 16th, 2009 at 3:34 PM

    Inmates are some of the worst-treated people in the world…okay, they may be criminals but are they not human? the apathy towards inmates in most cases makes me sick!

  • Joanna


    November 16th, 2009 at 6:04 PM

    How is it that we lose are humane side at some level? Why do we have to be given more consideration about our feelings vis a vis anybody else?

  • venedict thomas

    venedict thomas

    November 17th, 2009 at 3:01 AM

    Clear guidelines need to be put down that instructs the practitioners that inmates need to be treated just the way others are, and it is something that they cannot change and will be penalized if found to be neglecting. The practitioners also need to be given talks on how they should keep their prejudices at home and not bring them to work and treat each and every patient equally, whether he/she is a saint or a murderer.

  • Pauline


    November 18th, 2009 at 4:56 AM

    One would think that in the 21st century we would not be privy to stories of mistreatment and abuse of patients who cannot help themselves by the people who have chose to make a career out of helping them. I guess that I was wrong. Sometimes it is shocking to see just how little we have traveled in our quest to become a better society because there are always stories like this emerging that tend to shade the good with still more bad. Are we ever going to get to where we need to be as human beings in treating others with the love and the compassion that we all deserve? It looks like it is still destined to be a long journey.

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