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Mental Health Services Must Listen To Families

Mental Health Services Must Listen To Families
28 November 2001

Green Mental Health spokesperson Sue Bradford today said she wants a Code of Family Rights adopted by Mental Health services to ensure that family concerns about mentally ill patients are taken seriously.

"I will be doing everything I can to see that the Code of Family Rights (attached), developed by the Schizophrenia Fellowship, is adopted as a baseline for the way that Mental Health services deal with families in practice, not just in theory."

Ms Bradford said it was incredibly distressing for the Burton family in Queenstown that a letter warning that family lives were at risk had not been heeded, and that their son Mark had been released into the community and within 24 hours had killed his mother.

"Early this month I participated in a very large public meeting in Dunedin called by families of mentally ill people who had found themselves in a situation where a family member had been killed or the mentally ill person had committed suicide.

"I was very much affected by the desperation and despair of these families, who had gone through years and years of inquiries, only to still see more deaths happening."

Ms Bradford said it was crucial that family concerns were taken seriously, not least because families were the ones most at risk from violence, and that adopting the code would be the best way to achieve that.

"Close family members can pick up relatively minor changes in attitude and worsening paranoia in a mentally ill person which mental health units can sometimes miss.

"When CAT teams and acute unit staff refuse to listen to what families are saying, it is these same families that sometimes pay the price, through homicide or suicide."

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