Independent Mental Health Advocacy

Our service is officially launched

Thursday 1 October 2015 10:34pm

Our service is officially launched

Independent Mental Health Advocacy was officially launched by the Minister for Mental Health, the Hon Martin Foley, at an event in Melbourne last night

The potential of our service to support people subject to compulsory treatment to be heard was welcomed by speakers, and the 80 guests which included consumers who had advised on its set-up, as well as service providers.

They heard moving stories from people who have been through the experience of being treated against their will about its devastating impact, and their excitement about the potential of the new service to make a difference.

(Left to right) The Minister for Mental Health, the Hon Martin Foley; Manager Independent Mental Health Advocacy Helen Makregiorgos, Managing Director Victoria Legal Aid Bevan Warner. (Right) Consumer academic Cath Roper.

Minister Martin Foley introduces the new service

Mr Foley said that the start of the service and the Mental Health Act 2014 were just the beginning of a journey which should continue to push the boundaries of the rights of people subject to compulsory treatment.

He said that services needed to have people at their heart, and their voices must be heard, understood, acted on and taken seriously. ‘They are not just case notes, but people and citizens, and their best chance to recover is if they are centrally involved.’

Consumer academic Cath Roper shared her own experiences of compulsory mental health treatment. She said these made the launch of the service ‘precious and emotional, and the most significant event of my 20 years of advocacy.’

Ms Roper said that she had ‘felt like garbage’ after being taken away, handcuffed and bruised, in the back of a police divvy van for involuntary treatment. ‘I was assisted at the time by an advocate who believed in me, was in my corner and could look at me from a perspective that wasn’t just medical.’

Fairness, courage and care

Managing Director Victoria Legal Aid Bevan Warner said that the new service, which will be delivered by his organisation, matches with its key values: ‘Fairness, for the 10,000 people who are subject to compulsory treatment each year. Courage, to stand with them as they speak up about what they need, even when services and families have different views. And care, to support them through what we know is a lonely and distressing time.’

After the formalities, a rollicking performance from Wild at Heart community arts group captured the mood of optimism about the new service.

Performers were Phil Heuzenroeder and Heidi Everett, who has herself experienced compulsory treatment.

Heidi also spoke about the stigma that so often accompanies mental illness, sharing a story which raised a laugh about an acquaintance, who had served time in prison, taking a hasty few steps away from her when she told him she’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Through her music Heidi also invited the audience to ‘shine a light’ that would pave the way for people who had experienced the isolation of compulsory treatment.

Sharing a light-hearted moment at the launch (left to right): Consumer academic Cath Roper, Victoria Legal Aid Managing Director Bevan Warner, and Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley; (right) Wild at heart performers, Phil Heuzenroeder, Heidi Everett.

Reviewed 23 July 2021

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