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Forum welcomed for abused psychiatric patients

7 December 2004

Greens welcome forum for abused psychiatric patients

The Greens have welcomed a Government plan to establish a forum for former psychiatric patients who may have suffered abuse at the hands of the State, but are questioning its implementation.

"Psychiatric survivors are often the most marginalised people in society, and we support the idea of offering them a forum other than a court in which to say what happened to them," Green Justice Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos said.

"I have met with Government representatives and spoken with the Attorney General and am pleased to see the Government has responded to the call for an alternative to formal court processes.

"The State's responsibilities are three-fold: to ensure psychiatric survivors' experiences are acknowledged and validated, to provide institutional support in helping them overcome their past, and to provide monetary compensation for some."

However, Nandor said he had questions about how the forum was being implemented.

"Staff who worked in those psychiatric facilities must be able to fully and frankly disclose what they know. We cannot allow a cover-up.

"The Government's announcement does not say whether staff will be required, or even permitted, to appear before the forum to disclose what they know.

"We could follow the South African Truth and Reconciliation model and offer amnesty from criminal prosecution in return for a full and frank disclosure by staff. That is one way to get some air and light into this sorry tale."

Green Mental Health spokesperson Sue Bradford added: "The Government forum also offers individual counselling for abused patients. In some cases, this will not be enough.

"These are marginalised people and abuse at the hands of the State would have worsened their problems. We must ensure that the State's response now is not just about counselling, but is also about accessing work or benefits, adequate housing and other support."


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