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Community acute houses a positive trend

12/02/06

Community acute houses a positive trend

The people of Whitby should be pleased about the opening of an acute house for people with mental illness in their community, the Mental Health Commission said today.

“The Mental Health Commission applauds the opening of crisis houses in the community as an alternative to hospital based care. This trend is starting all over the developed world, because large acute inpatient units like Ward 27 struggle to provide a therapeutic environment and good care. People in severe distress need a more intimate home-like setting, with greater personal attention than they can get in a large institutional setting,” Mental Health Commissioner Mary O’Hagan said today.

“If I lived in Whitby and knew someone with mental illness, I would welcome the opportunity for them to receive care in their own community instead in a large hospital unit.”

Mental Health Commissioner Mary O’Hagan was responding to an article in the Sunday Star Times which quoted residents’ concerns about the opening of the acute house.

She said that people with mental illness are no more a threat than the general population; in fact research has shown that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

“If the residents of Whitby are so concerned about their safety because people with mental illness are living in their streets, why aren’t they in an absolute panic about the drunk young men, violent husbands, drug dealers and burglars who undoubtedly live in their suburb? They are far more of a threat to community safety than people with mental illness.

“As the Sunday Star Times has reported, none of the people in this home have committed a crime.

A former user of acute mental health services, Mary O’Hagan said she had seen hundreds of people in acute episodes of mental illness, like the people in the Whitby house, and she had never seen any of them threaten other people’s safety.

“Research tells us that 20 per cent of the population will at some time in their life experience mental illness - there will always be people with mental illness in our households, workplaces and neighbourhoods.

“The people at the centre of this story have the same rights as anyone else to enter communities without intrusion on their privacy. Subjecting them to public exposure of this type, which has included filming the acute house, is intolerable in any fair society.

“Discrimination against people with mental illness is both misinformed and unacceptable.

“The impact of discrimination on the lives of people with mental illness is enormous. It can affect their ability to find housing, jobs and friends. We can not let it affect their right to receive services in the best environment,” Ms O’Hagan said

ENDS


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