During 2020 IMHA’s consumer advisory group Speaking from Experience (SFE), continued its concentrated advisory work to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (RCVMHS) and more recently, we have focussed on the proposals for the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act.
A key recommendation we made is that the new Act acknowledge the harm that compulsory treatment can do and enable a shift away from its acceptance and use. As one of the members explained:
‘In my experience, being forced to take medications that did not agree with me physically, affected me so severely that I felt like I had no hope. To feel that you have no choice in the matter, where you are being forced to take something that causes so much physical distress is not fair or humane’ SFE member
We were pleased to see the royal commission explicitly acknowledge that the rate and duration of compulsory treatment was too high. While the proposed Act has some important goals and aspirations for reform, SFE had some concerns. Whilst we are pleased to see the reform towards an opt-out system for non-legal advocacy, we have concerns that the provision may allow for-profit providers to enter the space. We welcomed the stated aim to reduce compulsory treatment, however the timelines and vague pathways to achieve this are of concern to us. Another area of concern was the concept of possibly extending the power to implement Compulsory Treatment Orders to nurses and social workers.
SFE has provided constructive advice on our view of the proposals and I believe they are well reflected in the final submission. We thank VLA for both providing the platform to do this and incorporating our input and quotes.
Recently we hosted two senior representatives from the Department of Health at our regular meeting, to exchange views and outline the work that SFE has been involved with since our establishment. We were very interested to hear how the Department would establish a recruitment process to employ a lived experience workforce for the implementation phase of the RCVMHS, and we look forward to a continuing dialogue and engagement with them.
Our thanks to the teams at IMHA and VLA who make our make our work possible and our voices to be heard.
Reviewed 01 December 2021