From:: Mental Health Carers Arafmi Australia Inc.
Re - Mental Health Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Thank you for your recent letter and accompanying documents inviting comments on the draft statement referred to above.
Following conversations with member organizations and staff I provide the following comments which I hope will strengthen the statement. While it is acknowledged that this was a ‘limited review of the 1991 Statement’ there are at least two major areas where the new Statement can be enhanced and therefore be seen as more relevant to the modern day.
The Focus on Families and Carers should be stronger
1. The definition of ‘carer’ is limited and not really adequate in terms of mental health carers.
A more appropriate definition of mental health carer would be - any person who provides regular unpaid support in the person’s illness and recovery, this may be a parent, a partner, a sibling, a child, a friend or a member of a social network.
That many carers are families and have no choice in the provision of care should also be noted in the definition.
2. The role of families is not adequately addressed in this document. While it is acknowledged that many carers are not families, the reality is that many families prop up a clinically dominated mental health system which is under resourced to the extent that it struggles to provide any significant community living support or assistance.
3. The language of both consumer and carer participation and involvement is not central to the document. The best way to illustrate this is to refer to the newly adopted National Standards for Mental Health, in particular –
Standard 3 – Consumer and Carer participation which promotes more active involvement in the development, planning, delivery and evaluation of services.
Standard 7 – Carers which recognizes, respects, values and supports the importance of carers to the wellbeing, treatment, and recovery of people with a mental illness.
Both these Standards reflect a central role and focus for carers and families, and this is not reflected in the draft statement provided which treats carers and families as add-ons to the service structure.
Throughout the document there is little recognition of the experience and expertise of mental health carers, who have become experts by experience.
A Stronger focus on Recovery Orientated Practice
The recently released document from the Department of Health in Victoria, entitled a Framework for recovery – orientated practice (August 2011) has a stronger and more meaningful definition and set of guidelines regarding this matter.
While the statement document does use the word ‘recovery’ at appropriate places, it lacks any real conviction about the importance of this approach in everyday clinical and service practice.
On page 2 of this Victorian document we read ‘ Thus a recovery-orientated approach represents a movement away from a primarily biomedical view of mental illness to a holistic approach to wellbeing that builds on individual strengths(Davidson 2008).
Part IX (51) should clearly state the expectation that services must be recovery-orientated.
As we face significant growth in mental health services, the MHCAA believes that a strong focus on recovery-orientated care and the role of families are essential elements in the development of a responsive and relevant service system for the years ahead.
I am happy to talk further with you about these views,
Warren Jenkins, Executive Officer, Mental Health Carers Arafmi Australia.