Out of sight, out of mind
Reader Graeme Bond pointed me to this ABC radio Ockham’s razor special on the way Australia deals with mental illness, especially the Cornelia Rau case, also dealt with on last night’s Four Corners. The Rau case brought into focus how awful it is that places like Baxter detention centre exist, but far more mentally ill people end up in prison. An obvious question is whether the closure of mental hospitals in the 1970s was a bad idea, or a good idea taken too far. Graeme writes
Instead of updating psychiatric institutions, as is done with hospitals, schoolsÂ etc, we have replaced them with ‘community based neglect’ and another institution, prison.
No one suggests ‘community care’ for other serious illnesses requiring hospitalisation. It is sometimes akin to suggesting open heart surgery on the kitchen table.
Not all mentally ill require a high level of expensiveÂ care, many, such as the homeless on theÂ streets would have their lives vastly improved by little more than hostels with a low level of supervision and assistance with Centrelink forms so they were not reduced to begging. It is preferable to jail and probably cheaper.
Others simply need occasional brief periods of hospitalisation during a crisis and otherwise live relatively normal lives with their families.
and this seems pretty convincing to me. We’ve had a string of inquiries into this issue, without, it seems, making much progress.