A friend shared this post on Facebook tonight about a Adolescent Mental Health Facility being the latest casualty in budge cuts in Queensland. The Barrett Adolescent Centre caters to teenagers aged 13-18 with severe mental disorders and is situated in Warcol, west of Brisbane. The centre currently houses 18 teens, with teens coming from as far away as the Northern Territory to be treated.
Minister Springborg has said that the centre will be closed to make way for a more centralised model of care aka treatment in the community. This is the part where I saw red and felt that I HAD to write this, I had to have my say.
Inpatient units have their place in providing a chain of care to those who are unable to continue to manage their mental illness in their own home. Inpatient care is not taken lightly, it is generally not the first port of call in a long list of coping strategies. A secure, live in unit is needed to help provide a safe place both for the mentally ill and a respite for their carers.
I wonder where is the outrage that a mentally ill person is expected to only have help available in the community, yet someone with a psychical illness is not. Would someone who broke their leg be denied treatment because it should be dealt with in the community? No. So I ask why is someone with a mental illness is seen as below others who are suffering from something that is visible.
I met a woman on one of my stays in a mental health inpatient unit, she had bipolar and was in the deep throws of a manic episode. She had been maintaining her medication well for 10 years, she had a steady job and was the sole carer of two children. The medication that had been working so well for years had turned toxic in her system, almost killing her. This meant that she could not be medicated and so she quickly became manic. She became a danger to herself and her children..she couldn’t maintain her mental illness in the community any longer. This woman was in the mental health facility for months. I ran into her 6 months later and she was a completely different person, she had her children back and was again employed.
Would she have been able to do this in the community? Maybe, but it would take years to achieve the same result. In the meantime her family and life would continue to crumble around her. Is that any kind of life? Should a person be expected to live like that for years on end because they suffer from an illness that affects them mentally instead of physically?
Inpatient care is an important stepping stone in achieving mental wellness. A person can achieve the same things in the community yes..but at what cost?
This is a really interesting issue. I actually work at the facility where Barrett is based. There are a lot of issues around the centre (many environmental & structural) so this closure has been a long time coming. I have my own personal views on future treatment options, which I won’t air here, but it will be interesting to see what pathways to service are made available to this very vulnerable patient population and what the outcomes will be.
I worry most that it will leave a giant hole in the service to these teens. It’s one thing to encourage patients to access community based services but another issue entirely when it is their only option. I hope that something is put in place which will help both the patients and their families before the closure.
Just appalling. Care in the Community means just one thing – no care at all.
So much easier to sweep things under the rug when you have less witnesses