Assumptions, Bias, Labels … why the search for justice is elusive

A BLOG POST

I have written previously on this site to try and give context to findings that were less than satisfactory to people who have just wanted understanding and fairness. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to write again.

The Coroner’s Court of Queensland is undoubtedly populated by experienced and deeply knowledgeable individuals – that is not disputed. Neither can it be denied that Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker were each precious, courageous, developing individuals.

And it is INDIVIDUALITY that is at the very heart of the matter that must be illuminated by what has transpired over the 6½ years since the inevitable closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre was first revealed to be underway.

Each human being is unique. Even identical twins are not actually identical. Each of us has a physical make-up that is not organically replicated exactly in any other person. We are a one-of-a-kind collection of thought patterns and hopes and likes and backstories and quirks and motivations and needs and lifespans. But the world often seeks to put us into categories. To label or pigeonhole. To impose. And sometimes, to assume to know based on superficial information.

The need to classify is often understandable. It’s too hard to start with a totally blank page when dealing with thousands or even millions of people. So we are grouped and assigned and we have to compromise on the parts of ourselves that fall outside the parameters we are supposed to fit within.
And sometimes those compromises aren’t a big deal.
But sometimes they are.

As individuals, none of us has the capacity to be truly objective. Despite it being vital at times in professions and key life moments, our humanity can never totally be shut down. So we bring our histories and agendas and ambitions and perspectives of the world to all that we do.
And sometimes that isn’t a big deal.
But sometimes it is.

 

 

So when an individual provides their input on an issue or event,
what is FACT and what is INTERPRETATION?
And when several different individuals have their say on a particular situation,
who is providing what could be seen as the closest to OBJECTIVE information?

In the case of the Barrett Inquiry and the Coronial Inquest, for example,
whose evidence has been determined to be the EXPERT information on which findings will be based and whose evidence is viewed as FLAWED so has been broadly disregarded?

That has been for the Commissioner and the Coroner to decide. Based on years of legal knowledge, experience and precedents; standard practice; even societal conventions. There are high expectations of everyone involved. Protocols and time limitations to adhere to. It is no easy task and one where compromises must regularly come into play.

Not unlike those compromises we all have to make when we don’t fall into the stereotypes that can be assigned to us.
Like the mothers who have tolerated snap judgements about their relationships with children whose lives are in turmoil. (Because those mothers burst into tears when they finally admit out loud that they’re terrified their child could be dead every time they’re out of sight for more than a minute). But they continue because no other treatment has been effective.
Like the carers who have long given up on hoping vicariously for a life of professional achievement, fulfilling relationships and creative satisfaction for the suffering young person that they love. (They just want them to have a life. And then one that isn’t a never-ending nightmare.) But they continue because they are realistic and determined that the young person’s life will be better in some small way.
Like the parents who have sacrificed a stimulating and useful professional career and their own stable, healthy existence because the young person with such complex needs means more to them than anything else. (24 hr diligence and stress will always take a toll. And a life wholly focussed on another – a loved one who moves from torment to hopeless – drains like nothing else can.) But they continue because know their priorities and their responsibilities. Their child comes before anything for themselves. Anything.

So this blog post is just to note that:
Individuals make compromises based on their priorities.
Individuals categorise based on their particular agenda.
So all we can hope for is that, in every situation possible, everyone will do their best to take in everything each person says and does. As much as possible. Factoring in the context of the information being provided – the role of the individual, their incentive, their bias.
Each individual’s input should be seen as valuable. There should never be judgements based on stereotypes or assumptions.
This approach is something we all hope for many times through our lives. Over trivial incidents. And life changing events. Because it’s the only way to get closer to understanding. And fairness.
And those two things are vitally important. Especially in circumstances where individuals have suffered.
And are suffering.
And could suffer so much that the worst can happen.
If it hasn’t already.

 


The media have reported that the inquest found that “there are no strong links between the suicide of three Queensland teenagers and the controversial closure of a youth mental health facility,  … other factors played a more significant role in the suicides”. To try to consider the situation within the context provided by the people that experienced the closure process and aftermath … click on the button below.

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NEW EXTENDED TREATMENT CENTRE NEEDS: Therapists, Nurses, Social Workers, Psychologists, …

The team that will provide the holistic treatment and support at the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre to open at Chermside in early 2020 will be truly multidisciplinary.

So Expressions of Interest are now being called for:

  • Art Therapists
  • Carer Consultants
  • Dieticians
  • Exercise Physiologists
  • Health Workers
  • Medical
  • Music Therapists
  • Nurses
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Peer Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Speech Therapists

This is a unique opportunity to work in a truly collaborative team based in a new purpose built centre focussed on changing the lives of young people and their families. To be able to provide hope, facilitate recovery and witness the development of young Queenslanders with the potential to live productively in the community and finally acknowledge their own value will be a professional experience that is genuinely enriching.

For more information, click here to go the relevant page of the Children’s Health Queensland HHS website  or, to be kept informed of recruitment activity as it unfolds, email a copy of your CV to AETService-Recruit@health.qld.gov.au.

It’s worth noting that CHQ HHS page linked above also has a digital ‘flyover’ video of what the exterior of the new Centre will look like (and from which the images used here were selected). So anyone with any interest at all in the Centre should find viewing this particularly interesting.

*****

A reminder of INADEQUATE TRANSITIONS

A BLOG POST

10 months ago, I posted on the BLOG page of severeyouthmentalhealth.org – where pieces that have personal perspective, analysis or opinions appear (other posts are News and aim to focus on facts and information about developments etc.). I had been compelled to write about the findings of the Barrett Commission of Inquiry in relation to the transitions of patients.

As independent reviewers undertake a look at the transitions from adolescent to adult mental health services, particularly in relation to those suffering severe and complex mental health issues, I would urge anyone who is unsure of what they can contribute to read that July 2016 post which reflects on how the Barrett families felt in relation to the findings of the BACCOI on transitions.

These families know what needed to be done and what was overlooked and I am confident that they are not the only Queenslanders with this kind of insight.

So now is the time to do whatever you can to share your knowledge and experiences – or encourage others to do so – so that the young people who need the best support, the most carefully planned and gradual transitions and our best efforts in all the services they require in order to finally see a light at the end of the tunnel have access to what will not just improve their lives but, in some cases, save them. NOW IS THE TIME TO SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. Through processes that ensure confidentiality but that also will mean that the input given IS ON RECORD and MUST BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION.

If you have an opinion following experience in this area or know someone who has, since the HOI reviewers’ survey is no longer accepting entries, please do the following yourself or encourage those who have important insights to:

The next few weeks provide key opportunities for those who understand what’s needed to contribute to providing those very things.

On behalf of all Queenslanders who are affected by severe and complex youth mental health issues – now and in the generations to come – I implore you all to give your expert input. From those who have seen the reality to those who can shape the future – the vital passage of ideas is the only way we can get closer to the right support for those who need it the most.

*

Have your say ~ Transitions between Adolescent and Adult Mental Health Services

NEWS

The Inquiry into the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre brought many issues to light in relation to mental health services for young people that need to be addressed.

In chronological and legal terms, an adolescent becomes an adult at 18 years old. But when that adolescent has been enduring severe and complex mental health issues for years, adult services are too often totally inappropriate for his/her needs and transition to those purely because they’ve passed their 18th birthday can frequently be more harmful than helpful. The process of transition (when a young adult does actually reach a stage where they have the reasoning capacities, lifeskills and emotional/social development of an adult – ensuring access to adult services will facilitate ongoing progress) is also obviously vital. Trauma is likely to have already been a significant experience in the lives of these young people and all efforts to support them must ensure that no therapeutic process or mechanism between processes contributes to that in any way. Individual readiness and gradual and appropriate transitions must not be an aspiration but a BASIC REQUIREMENT of their mental healthcare.

Justice Wilson’s Recommendations from the BACCOI included:
REC 5: Improve transitions for adolescents moving into adult mental health services
and the government’s action on this has been to assemble a working group to outline the terms of reference for the engagement of an organisation to undertake an independent review of the current situation as regards the alignment and transition arrangements between Queensland’s adolescent and adult services.

Health Outcomes International (HOI) and Synergy Nursing and Midwifery Research Institute are, as a result of their appointment, undertaking a range of consultations – from focus groups, discussions with key stakeholders and an online survey to gather information on issues including the following:

  • Mental Health Program/Services that currently exist throughout Queensland
  • Capacity/ resourcing issues
  • Processes for the transition of adolescents and young people to the adult mental health system
  • Collaborative working arrangements and communication between services
  • Service Innovations
Many young Queenslanders and their families will have valuable information based on their own experiences and it is only through sharing those experiences that access to the appropriate services and transition methods can be developed. The problems Queenslanders have personally experienced or witnessed cannot continue but any shortcomings or mismanagement can’t be addressed if they are not communicated to the independent reviewers. Please be assured that any contributor’s personal identity WILL BE PROTECTED.

CONFIDENTIALITY
HOI states clearly that the information collected by the survey is for statistical purposes only and won’t be used to identify survey respondents, mental health service users or their families/carers. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact Andrew McAlindon, Senior Manager at HOI (AndrewM@hoi.com.au)
and/orLeonie Sanderson
please note that Leonie Sanderson at Health Consumers
Queensland is an ADVOCATE and ADVISOR for the needs of CONSUMERS and CARERS, specifically in relation to the government response to the Inquiry’s recommendations.

As the HCQ website states:

Health Consumers Queensland is a not-for-profit organisation and a registered health promotion charity and we believe in improving health outcomes for people in Queensland. One way we do this is through enabling consumers to be an effective voice in how health services are designed and delivered.

So you can contact Leonie at leonie.sanderson@hcq.org.au to clarify anything or provide anonymous information should you have any concerns about sharing information related to your mental health service experiences in a more public forum.

Those who were/are unable to attend the ongoing regional forums* should be encouraged to contact Leonie with their insights at the above email address or by phoning HCQ on 07 3012 9090 to arrange the best method and time of sharing your insights to suit your needs and availablity.

So please, urge those you know who have experience in the transition of a young person/s from adolescent to adult mental health services to undertake the survey (at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3542411/Queensland-Health-Public-Mental-Health-Services-Mapping) and/or contact Health Consumers Queensland directly if you have additional insights to share regarding the services needed to address the needs of young people with severe and complex mental health issues. Contributions from those with experience are essential in ensuring that the right approaches, programs and attitudes to mental healthcare for our most vulnerable young people become standard practice as soon as possible.
* There are still places available for the following Youth Mental Health forums:
Townsville: 9.30am - 12.30pm, 19 May - Riverway Function Space, Tony Ireland Stadium.
Mt Isa: 12.30 - 3.30pm, 23 May - MICRRH, James Cook University Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, Mount Isa Hospital, Joan St, Mount Isa City.
Logan: 9.30am - 12.30pm, 29 May - Logan Central, 51 Wembley Rd, Ground floor conference room Addiction, Mental Health Services.
Mackay: 10.30am - 1.30pm, 30 May - Ocean International Resort, 1 Bridge Rd, South Mackay.
Bundaberg: 10.30am - 1.30pm, 31 May - Burnett Riverside Motel, 7 Quay Street, Bundaberg.

Be Part of the Conversation on Youth Mental Health Services

NEWS

As part of the Qld Government’s response to the Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry (BACCOI) Report, Health Consumers Queensland‘s collaboration with Queensland Health and Education Queensland continues to create vital opportunities for public input.

The next phase means thatcoming soon to a town near you will be a public forum where anyone with ideas, experience and information related to adolescent mental health issues are invited to talk directly to those responsible for the provision of health and education services throughout Queensland for young people and their families dealing with such challenges.  Consumer and carer representatives who have been actively involved so far will be present as will the Health Consumers Queensland staff who continue to advocate for co-design as the only means by which the best services can become available.  These forums are an opportunity to:

To register your attendance go to
www.health.qld.gov.au/improvement/youthmentalhealth or

contact EDyouthmentalhealth@health.qld.gov.au or
click on the thumbnail below right to open the info sheet
with location and registration information

New centre to be built at Prince Charles Hospital + SURVEY announced

NEWS

The Queensland Premier announced today that a new facility for young people with severe and complex mental health issues would be built in the grounds of Prince Charles Hospital at Chermside in Brisbane’s northern suburbs. A site visit was then made where Premier Palaszczuk and Health Minister Cameron Dick were joined by community members directly affected by the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre in January 2014. The Minister had met with families linked to the Barrett Centre yesterday to update them on the progress of the government’s response to the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the closure and reassure them that health service consumers and carers would continue to play a significant role in planning and developments. Continue reading

The potential for a new approach based on genuine understanding ­– Part 2

As the Steering Committee overseeing the implementation of all the recommendations from the Barrett Centre Commission of Inquiry (COI) has begun its work, it seems opportune to outline what’s needed as far as #4 (“consider a new building in south-east Queensland offering a range of mental health services for young people, including bed-based services”) of the 6 recommendations is concerned. Continue reading

Government Response to Barrett Commission of Inquiry Recommendations So Far

The Queensland Government has reacted quickly to implement the six main recommendations from Commissioner Margaret Wilson following the Inquiry into the Closure of the Barrett Centre. Continue reading