Community Visitors report 64% increase in mental health violence
Thursday 20 September 2018
Public Advocate Colleen Pearce, chair of the Community Visitors Boards, said that volunteers recorded a 64 per cent increase in such incidents across the state’s mental health services.
“The level of assaults and violence is skyrocketing in facilities designed to help people improve their mental health,” Dr Pearce said.
“It is deeply troubling that incidents that our volunteers report incidents have gone up from 101 last year to 166 this year - and that does not include incidents of which the volunteers are unaware or which have not been reported by consumers.”
Dr Pearce said that a number of factors were responsible for the increase which led to four of this year’s 11 recommendations including:
- increased consumer complexity
- limited alternatives for people with mental health and alcohol and drug issues
- mixed gender mental health units
- insufficient therapeutic activities, particularly over the weekend
- restricted access to outdoor areas
Dr Pearce said that there had also been a disturbing increase in assaults in aged mental health care services where some bedrooms are shared.
The Community Visitors Mental Health Board recommended that the State Government:
- expand strategies such as the Safewards program
- implement the recommendations of the Mental Health Complaint Commissioner’s Report, The right to be safe, to ensure sexual safety in acute mental health units
- replace all shared inpatient rooms with single occupancy accommodation
- ensure Community Visitors have unfettered access to incident report documentation.
This year, 78 Community Visitors undertook 1601 visits to 143 mental health units across Victoria.
Serious incidents this year included:
- an alleged strangulation (p.69)
- a stabbing of a co-resident who later died (Northern Metropolitan Melbourne, p.69)
- a resident punching another who required police and ambulance attendance (Western Metropolitan Melbourne)
- injury of a Community Visitor during a consumer outburst (St Vincent’s Health)
- a female consumer being sexually assaulted by a male consumer (Monash Health).
Dr Pearce said that the inability or unwillingness of mental health services to provide Community Visitors with access to incident reports limits an important human rights safeguard and more needs to be done to ensure services comply with this legal requirement.
The Board called for more mental health beds (rec.3), particularly for short-stays, and drug treatment and, additional longer-term supported accommodation options.
The Board also called (rec.7) for the implementation of strategies to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in adolescent mental health services which had had doubled in the first nine months of 2017-2018 (at the time of writing, statistics for the final quarter were not yet available).