Mental health expert addresses symposium


THE MOST crucial issues facing people suffering from mental illness are their treatment and social functioning, according to an Australian expert. Prof Terry Carney, of the University of Sydney, addressed a symposium organised by the Mental Health Commission on the 2001 Mental Health Act in Dublin yesterday.

He said studies showed people often had problems with their treatment which were not addressed and they felt they were not listened to. This was more important than the issue of their involuntary detention, which in Ireland under the 2001 Act must be reviewed by a mental health tribunal.

According to the Department of Health description of the Mental Health Act, “people who are being admitted or to whom treatment is being administered must be given an opportunity to express their views and have those views taken into account as far as is practicable. When decisions are being made under the Act, due regard must be given to the need to respect a person’s right to dignity, bodily integrity, privacy and autonomy.”

Prof Carney said this system was working in Ireland “a hell of a lot better than in Australia”. The requirement of a second opinion was very important, and in Ireland about one in 10 reviews by tribunals led to the person being discharged. The figure for Australia and many other jurisdictions was in “low single digits”, he said.