Private mental health advocacy role

Many people with mental health problems are reliant on private providers for treatment, and in her new role Associate Professor Sharon Lawn (pictured) will be helping to improve the service and support they receive.

She has just been appointed South Australian Coordinator of the Private Mental Health Consumer Carer Network, which operates under the auspices of the Private Mental Health Alliance.

Associate Professor Lawn said that while the Network has an advocacy role in developing an agenda at a national level for improvement to services, it also acts as a conduit for information to members and ultimately to the doctors and allied health providers who treat them.

Representing a group of members in each State, the coordinators meet together twice yearly with the Network Chair Janne McMahon to discuss issues and concerns related to private sector mental health services.

The Network is frequently involved in consultation with government and, for example, has had significant input into the discussions about Disability Care Australia.

Associate Professor Lawn said that while private psychiatrists keep up-to-date with clinical developments, in some cases consumers, thanks to the Network’s newsletter, may be more aware of available services than their doctors.

“It’s a case of shared learning,” Associate Professor Lawn said.

She said an important part of the Network’s role is to help in overcoming the isolation experienced by people with mental illness, and their families and carers, who receive support in the private system.

She said consumers and carers, especially in rural and remote areas, can be very isolated. While family members often carry the burden of providing practical day-to-day aspects of care, some do not have direct access to the treating psychiatrist or doctor.

The Network also organises events such as the recent national forum on borderline personality disorder held at Flinders, that drew on the results of the first national surveys of people with the illness and their carers.

“People with borderline personality disorder and their families still have tricky and challenging experiences in getting support in public and private systems,” Associate Professor Lawn said.

“All the issues of fragmentation and communication problems that exist in the health system in different populations and services can be seen in their stark focus in mental health.

“The issues are serious, far-reaching and very complex, and compound with other things in people’s lives.”

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3 thoughts on “Private mental health advocacy role

  1. Borderline Personality Disorder is a label that is applied to anyone with complex problems that is used to justify and condone bad practices, corruption and professional negligence. One of the greatest issues relates to the fact that practitioners are always paid regardless of whether someone has an improved condition as a result of the ‘service’ that has been provided. Hospitals are always paid irrespective of whether someone is discharged onto the streets or into poverty or victimisation within their family or living environments & the borderline label only serves to justify irrational and irresponsible conduct by service providers when people are becoming increasingly distressed. In this respect, Borderline Personality Disorder really needs to be viewed as providing an abdication of responsibility for mental health practitioners. It needs to be recognised that psychiatrists, who as a profession, have the right to practice and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, can elect to apply this label and subject anyone to a life of perpetual prejudice, confusion, entrenched poverty, distress, homelessness and reinforced and perpetuated experiences of injustice within the community whilst they lap up their overseas conference attendances, wealthy lifestyles and the kudos associated with their professional accreditations. The sooner this label is removed from the DSM the more functional the mental health system will probably become. Frankly, people are dying in South Australia because of the culture of protectionism and the dedication to diagnose, drugging and discharging yet if someone dares to complain the personality disorder label is readily and happily applied over and again. Then they can try to ‘control behaviour’ which sometimes is an utterly appropriate response to what someone is experiencing which merely amounts to a cycle of paternalism and domination and oppression. From this perspective labelling an individual with Borderline Personality Disorder could and should be viewed as malicious psychiatry which is devoid of any scientific credibility. The private system is just as bad as the public systems in this respect since there is only one private hospital provider in SA and pretty much the same staff are rotated through these sectors. The levels of bullying in the mental health system needs to be investigated, bed shortages, staffing issues and a deep and entrenched culture of patient blaming – even after their deaths at times – really means the systems are rotted to the core in some aspects. Practitioners are rarely held to account unless individuals have strong family and social supports backing them with their claims, however, most people accessing mental health services are already crippled by vulnerabilities and profoundly distressed so they aren’t capable of taking on powerful players with far reaching and manipulative agenda’s of their own.

  2. Borderline personality disorder is a much stigmatized disorder within the mental health community because of the attitudes of the treatment providers on top of the name that is given to this form of disorder.

    Sadly, it is seldom recognized or acknowledged that individuals who have traits or symptoms of this disorder may be suffering from 1) comorbid issues 2) that comorbid issues may be exacerbating the symptoms/traits, resulting in poorer impulse control and increase in tendency to engage in self-destructive behaviour.

    Sadly, in a country where mental health-care is less stigmatized compared to some other countries, people with this condition are potentially facing stronger stigma as compared to the amount of stigma that people with similar condition may be facing in other countries where mental health issues are considered taboo.

    Perhaps its time to examine why this attitude is prevalent amongst treatment providers in spite of the efforts within the community/society to de-stigmatize mental illness as a whole.

  3. Psychiatrists are medical specialists who are supposed to be trained to recognise physical symptoms and not make superficial judgements based on preconceived prejudices yet there is more prejudice within these systems than anywhere else. Consequently, the borderline ‘diagnosis’ is not applied on the basis of an educated or informed position it is merely a dirty lazy label that forms an excuse for malpractice and justifies inconceivable injustices. Frankly it has to be noted that the bullying culture is systemically entrenched. I could not believe what I witnessed with practitioners bullying each other out of practicing in locations if they held different ethos to others around them. There was a sweeping change dedicated to the diagnose, drug and discharge practice rather than developing long term consistent relations and in the location where I was employed, practitioners were bullied from the public system and told if they wanted to practice like that then they had to run private clinics where they could do what they liked. What sort of example is that? The pressure placed on practitioners was ridiculous and if they think for a minute that it doesn’t impact on the quality of patient care then they need to seriously reconsider these attitudes. I was rocked to the core. Some practitioners were ruthlessly playing games with each other’s lives and welfare so it’s no wonder these attitudes then flowed on to the quality of patient care demonstrated towards vulnerable individuals.

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