Mental Health Bill 2014
Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to rise today to speak on the Mental Health Bill 2014, which has finally made it into this house. This bill is the result of many people’s efforts. I note that the member for Bellarine, who began the review of the Mental Health Act 1986, is in the house, and I commend her for her efforts. The bill is also the result of the honest and open way that people have approached the consultation process — telling their stories, trying to improve the system and make sure that it is more client and patient focused, and acknowledging that mental health patients have human rights and need to be respected, looked after, enhanced and supported.
Hopefully in the consideration-in-detail stage we will get some clarity about the level of funding these services will receive.
Words are good, and there are some very fine words in this legislation and all the work that has gone before it, but we really need to make sure that the services are funded because we do not want the reforms and much-needed change to be further delayed and underfunded. We on this side of the house do not want to see these very important people in our community who have great needs, these vulnerable mental health patients, being
discarded and having to use services that are not correctly funded or have been privatised. The level of accountability and transparency needed around the treatment of mental health patients requires that government agencies are fully supported and are the ones taking the care of the patients’ needs.
I would like to briefly acknowledge and put on the record the work of my dear sister-in-law Madeleine Kelly. She developed depression in her final years of medicine at the University of Melbourne. She did not get to finish her course, but she spent her life as an amazingly brave advocate for mental health patients and the provision and enhancement of services to make sure that a holistic approach was developed where the voices of mental health patients were heard loudly and clearly. She wrote a book called Bipolar and the Art of Roller-coaster Riding, which won the SANE Book of the Year award in 2001. If you go onto Google today, you will see that she still gets a 4-star rating. The book is still used in medical schools across the nation to teach young medical students just what mental illness is about.
She met her partner, my brother-in-law Phillip, at a client advocates conference where 15 years ago they were talking about how people who have mental health issues deserve to be heard — loudly, clearly and with support.
In her book Madeleine advocates lots of models for self-help and how to ride out and equip yourself and predict and prevent future episodes. She talks about the need to empower yourself, to advocate not only for yourself but to use and take the benefits of other agencies, and also to put agencies in their place when they are not doing the right things and to put medical practitioners in their place when they are not listening.
Sadly, my sister-in-law Madeleine died nearly two years ago. It is a tragedy when you do not get to see your children grow up. We all thought, as did her medical and psychiatric practitioners, that she was having another episode. People talk about the difficulty of diagnosing mental health issues and the problems associated with dual diagnosis; I can tell you as a family member that this was a very difficult period for us. My husband was an enormous support.
We spent a great deal of time visiting her in hospital until she was finally diagnosed as having her very gifted brain under attack by frontotemporal dementia. She died, and so for me this bill is not about us here today; it is about Madeleine and all the people she tried to
support with love and care and with great ideas about how they could feel more empowered about their treatment and how they could protect and use their human
rights to ensure their treatment regime was one that they could live with and feel comfortable with. For me this bill is all about Madeleine and all the people she touched in her life, and there are many other Madeleines — far too many. One in five Victorians are touched by mental illness.
Today I commend this bill to the house. I hope we have all learned something by going through this debate.
Mental health patients deserve not only to have their human rights acknowledged but also, as I hope we will see at the consideration-in-detail stage, to have funding provided so they can use their human rights to advocate on behalf of themselves and make sure they have
treatment regimes that suit their purposes, and that those treatment regimes and support services — public support services, as far as I am concerned — are funded adequately so they can live good, well and happy lives.