Mental health statistics around the world are indicative that in the twenty- first century we seem to be heading for a pandemic. The starling reality according to World Health Organization figures is that I in every 4 persons living today have developed a mental health disorder within their life time. This accounts for 25% of the world’s population. (World Health Organization, 2004)
Precise studies have revealed that to date some 450 million people around the globe are affected by some mental disorder of one type or the other irrespective of whether they live in developing countries, underdeveloped or developed. They are caught in the trap. Of this 450 million 154 million have been diagnosed with depression; 25 million with schizophrenia; 91 million from alcohol related disturbances and 15 million due directly to illicit drug abuse. . (AHSA International 2007)
This is unbelievably true! But the great news is that mental illness can be treated. Treatment works and clients can be cured. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010). Therefore, as health care providers we do not become alarmed and ask why, but more importantly, how can we arrest this invasion of our territory? Consumer Participation in Mental Health Care has within its framework techniques available to effectively harness this dysfunction.
Consumer Participation in Mental Health is an international concept. However, the terminology is exclusively Australian with polices and procedures distinct for specific geographic locations and cultural orientations. It is an action plan whereby consumers of mental health care are involved in designing adequate techniques that would facilitate diagnosis, treatment and recovery of patients affected with mental illness. (Anglicare 2009)
Benefits of Consumer Participation in Mental Health Care
A close examination of Victoria’s public mental health services consumer participation policies, it was discovered that the motto defining role enactments was embodied in a mission statement emphasizing recognition “that the consumer `lived experience’ is needed to inform and shape practice across policy and service delivery, planning, development and evaluation.” (Victoria Mental Health Services 2009, p.1).
As such, a major benefit of consumer participation in mental health is the consumer’s “lived experience.” (Victoria Mental Health Services 2009, p.1). How does this actually enhance the mental healthcare delivery system in this country or anywhere else in the world? Surely, there must be persistent evaluation of the system to establish a criterion of usefulness.
Utilizing the applied experiences of within Victoria and other public mental health services, an assessment of these programs projected that consumer participation was influential in five key areas of public policy intervention. First, through consumer participation in mental health human-consumer rights were communicated in legislation. Secondly, awareness was aroused regarding empowerment of consumers being equal to those rendering care and not inferior subjects. (Department of human services Melbourne Victoria 2009)
Thirdly, it forged a consumer focus in delivery and quality of care as it relates to expectations and outcomes. Essentially, what was most appropriate from consumers’ perspective after voicing their concerns, was implemented, rather than sophisticated designs of unaffected policy academics. (Bassel & Stickley 2010)
Fourthly, there was marked improvement in collaboration between recipients and caregivers. Recovery focused projects evaluations, showed marked improvements. Service emphasis was channeled from a paradigm of monitoring the quality of processes involved in implementation procedures. Fifthly, consumers of care became leaders in its application since they were involved as the service providers as well. (Department of Health and Ageing 2009)
Besides, Victoria’s successful experiences through experiments with consumer participation in mental health care at the national level, Anglicare has been very instrumental as a direct community mental health care provider. The focus of this organization is to support mental health patients and their families by allowing their active participation in planning and implementing their care. . (Anglicare. 2009)
Actually, they offer Residential Recovery Services at Curraghmore, Devonport and Rocherlea in Launceston. Within this framework of Residential Recovery Services there is a nucleus of personal helpers and mentors which, act as consumer consultants. They provide one on one technical advice; rehabilitation through retraining and moral education for patients recovering from the condition. Patient- consultant interaction takes the form of discussions and group activities planned according to patient’s preferences. (Anglicare 2009)
Further accounts of experiences in consumer participation in mental health include provision of housing; designing of socialization groups such as Pathways and club Haven; Tax kids clubs for children of mentally ill parents and a family mental health support service. (Anglicare 2009).
Limitations of Consumer Participation in Mental Health Care
Precisely, there are a number of principles which embody successful consumer participation. These include policy makers’ recognition of the product’s value ( commonly known as consumer participation); awareness that it is an important component of sustainable quality care; consumers have the power to set their own reform agenda; understanding the three levels of consumer participation, namely, individual assessment, local service planning and national level involvement.( Brown & Hensley 2008).
Also, acknowledging the importance of consumer representation related to personal roles and responsibilities; consumer networking activities; information acquisition and sharing; mutual respect; documentation of relevant consumer participation practices; adaptation of workforce strategies and education and training. (Brown & Hensley 2008).
In citing experiences and actual accounts of consumer participation in mental health at the Victoria applications and pilot projects researched around Australia, a major constraint identified is misunderstanding the purpose and role of participation required of the consumer. It is true that mentally ill people may at some point demonstrate inability to assimilate information at the rate or level normal people would. (Department of Health and Ageing 2000)
However, it is no doubt that consumer participation in mental health in Australia requires adequate allocation of resources pertaining to education and training; follow up assessment by consumer consultants as well as perpetual support of clients involved in the execution of projects. (Department of Health and Ageing 2009). Success largely depends on attitudes of staff also, that intermingle with consumer patients.
The experience of a mentally ill boy who was allegedly hallucinating; taken to hospital and examined by a psychiatric consultant; displayed how staff attitude can influence effective consumer participation in mental health care. From reports given by his mother he was in company of a friend when he became ill. After a few hours at the crisis center he was discharged as being normal merely experiencing home sick. (Mental Health Council of Australia, 2005)
His mother implored hospital authorities to keep him for further evaluations knowing her son’s previous behavior. They ignored her request and confirmed the discharge. Upon leaving the facility he murdered his friend the next morning. (Mental Health Council of Australia, 2005).
Inevitably, even though the idea of consumer participation in mental health impinges heavily on the “lived experience’ philosophy, these clients must be supported by persons of “non lived experience” from time to time. If their perspective of the ‘lived experience’ clients is not revised this could cause a collapse of the entire program. In many instances as the one cited above, disrespect resulting in violation of clients’ human rights was the outcome. (Department of Health and Ageing. 2002).
Precisely, lack of integration of consumers at strategic levels to enhance full representation and improve communication links; have been the greatest obstacles to a more efficient process and favorable outcomes. (National Alliance of Mental Illness, 2008)
Another instance of a bipolar woman who found no hope in a system, which did not understand her struggles eventually, took her life though lack of proper integration as a consumer. Complaints have been that community care from the level of consumer participation is grossly inadequate. Hundreds of similar experiences can be cited to show where, presently there are still barriers to consumer participation in mental health occursing at many levels. (Mental Health Council of Australia, 2005).
In the foregoing discussion on Consumer Participation in Mental Health Care the writer through statistical evaluations; experiences and detailed accounts established the need for consumer participation in mental health globally. This was based on the premise that 25% of the world’s population has been affected by this illness and it ranks high on the agenda of most common illness in relation to cancer; diabetes and heart disease. . (World Health Organization 2004).
Benefits of consumer participation as practiced in Australia were highlighted. Victoria Public health mental health consumer model was depicted for it effectiveness. Execution of programs have proven very successful since it inception some 20 years ago. Recovery rate of consumer participants have increased by some 89%. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007).
This was achieved through consumer participation in mental health whereby human-consumer rights were communicated in legislation and concerns of clients were implemented, rather than sophisticated designs of unaffected policy academics. (Bassel & Stickley 2010).
Examples of the magnificent work conducted by Anglicare was highlighted as an experience of consumer participation in mental health showing how goals can be achieved when mentally ill people, their families and empathetic mentors are engaged in mental health care.
Limitations impinge on inadequate staffing and inconsideration for the concerns of clients and their relatives. At some point it clearly shows where resources available lack consistency in evaluation and thoroughness in assessments of patients’ needs as well as concerns of relatives. The two scenarios highlighted in this document provided valuable proof.
Landmarks were not achieved without evident measures for improvement. A task force working on evaluating Victoria Public health mental health policies discovered that there were still barriers in consumer participation. (Department of Health and Ageing 2000).
This phenomenon influences a number of other predisposing factors that greatly determine full recovery of participants. However, with these glaring constraints limiting a more efficient implementation process, the Australia mental health institution proposes to continue evaluating structures now functioning in the consumer participation of mental health industry, with the aim of perfecting its services.
Therefore, these constraints and limitations are being consistently evaluated and reevaluated in Victoria, Devonport and Launceston, informing consumer participation predications in mental health within the country. Consumers do have distinct support requirements, which may not always be available since the need for more consumer participant consultants are needed within the industry. (Department of human services Melbourne Victoria 2009)
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