Needing to be heard: our focus so far
In our first few months, most requests for Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) support have been focused on the desire for greater participation in decisions and changes in medications.
IMHA Manager Helen Makregiorgos says that while it is too early to confirm any definite trends, when we speak with people subject to compulsory treatment they tell us how important it is that they are heard and actually listened to.
‘People tell us that the reason why they are being compulsorily treated has not been explained, or that they haven’t been involved as much as they wish,’ Helen says.
‘Specific issues which have been coming up are that they feel there has been a lack of communication about the side effects of their medications, or why their leave has been cancelled or not granted.
‘There are, naturally enough, concepts like “risk” and “least restrictive treatment” which can vary greatly from the perspectives of the person concerned and their treating staff.
'Our goal at IMHA is always to make sure that the individual’s point of view is heard and respected.’
Helen says it was encouraging to see that there have already been examples where solutions that address the person’s concerns have been able to be worked out.
In one such instance, an advocate supported a woman who felt strongly that she wished to continue with a preferred medication, against the advice of her treating team who were concerned about risky side-effects.
‘She was given coaching so that she felt able to speak up and express her views directly with her psychiatrist at the Mental Health Tribunal,’ Helen says.
‘She was also given information about advanced statements and nominated persons, so her wishes are clear if she again becomes unwell.
‘She told us that afterwards she was “feeling over the moon” with how things had gone.
‘Another person wanted a second opinion about the diagnosis she had been given, but had been denied leave to attend this appointment. Our advocate was able to represent her wishes to her psychiatrist so that she could do so, as well as to achieve a change to a less sedating medication.’
Reviewed 23 July 2021