Four Corners - Duty of Care
It began as a well-intentioned social reform: fling open the doors of big institutions and help mentally ill people live in the wider community. But governments now stand accused of using the shift to community-based programs as an excuse to squeeze funding, with tragic results.
Families are grieving for sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who have taken their own lives after being refused an acute care bed, or after absconding from an understaffed ward. For these individuals, suicide has been the ultimate consequence of mental illness and the system’s failure to deal with it.
On a broader level suicide is used as a blunt measure of how well or how poorly the system cares for its clientele. In NSW one suicide in six involves a client of the system.
A parliamentary inquiry is now investigating NSW services. But official directives have stopped many employees speaking out about key issues such as lack of 24-hour crisis teams and denial of care to suicidal people. Professionals tell how they are forced to take dangerous gambles, ejecting seriously ill people from hospital to make beds available to new arrivals.
Andrew Fowler reports on the human cost of a failing mental health system.
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