Mental health sufferers are stigmatised by the professionals that are supposed to be caring for them, according to a globally-renowned expert calling for a shake-up of the system.
Professor Mike Slade, from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, says the current attitude of mental health professionals is one of “do what we tell you to do and you will be well again.”
He says stigma against mental illness is alive and well among health professionals, who continue to maintain “hope-destroying” practices.
While developed countries have closed most asylums, they’ve inadvertently created “virtual institutions”, where sufferers who appear to live in the community are actually stuck in a “mental illness-defined bubble”.
Prof Slade is calling for a shift to a ‘nothing about us without us’ attitude, where those affected by mental health problems are involved in the debate about their future.
“If we only listen to professional constructions and narratives, we inadvertently oppress,” he told Mental Health Australia’s Grace Groom Memorial Oration in Canberra on Wednesday night.
Treatment should be offered as a resource in someone’s recovery, “rather than done to them in their best interests”.
Prof Slade wants the mental health system to employ more people with lived experience of mental illness.
Instead of focusing only on patients, the system should be working with employers, educating them on how to accommodate workers with mental illness.
Mental health needed to move from a treatment-based model to a citizenship model, focusing on supporting people to make their own way rather than providing interventions.
“Living well for most of us does not happen in the hospital or in mental health service settings” Prof Slade said.
“It happens as we live our lives in our chosen community.”
This article first appeared on ‘SBS’ on 21 October 2015.