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 GoodTherapy.org.
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