Damning mental health report offers no 'easy fixes'

THE TRAGIC circumstances surrounding the death of respected local mental health worker, Michael Corkhill, in June, allegedly at the hands of a client, was eerily echoed in a report tabled in Parliament this week.

The report, Tracking Tragedy, looked specifically at homicide and serious injury inflicted by mental health patients, and the suicide deaths of mental health inpatients in NSW.

It identified poor clinical systems and standards of practice, and recommended that NSW Health take responsibility for strategies such as the setting of minimum standards.

The Opposition accused the Government of trying to bury the report by releasing it on the day John Della Bosca resigned.

The report also acknowledged that most suicides occur outside the mental health system and recommended increasing access to mental health services in order to improve suicide prevention rates.

A senior mental health professional, who asked to remain anonymous, said the report was timely but there were no easy fixes. He also said there was a vital need for a forensic mental health system for (the incarceration of) patients who were clearly a danger to themselves and others.

“At present we can't keep them, we have to let them go. We have to cross our fingers and offer up a prayer all the time,” the man said.

“The bottom line is that the treatment of mental health is still in its early days and we just haven't got reliable treatments.

“No one knows how to balance a person's right to live their life freely despite their illness, and the right of the community to be protected against dangerous people.”

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