Mental health checks ‘a joke’

By Kathleen Donaghey

MENTAL health patients receive better treatment in prison than through Queensland’s mental health system, according to vocal campaigner Fanita Clark.

Ms Clark, who founded the organisation White Wreath after her son committed suicide, yesterday described mental health assessment in Queensland as a ‘joke’ and ‘farce’ because too many people with warning signs were slipping through the system.

She called for a dramatic change in process so patients were assessed neurologically rather than verbally and she wants the return of asylums.

“A proper psychological assessment should take two hours but they do it in five minutes by using tick sheets,” said Ms Clark.

“It’s a farce, a joke, and we’re losing thousands of our own men, women and children because of suicides and murders directly attributable to mental health.”

Ms Clark’s comments end a week of sustained criticism of the mental health system following the murder of Southport resident Carmel Wuth, 77, allegedly by a mentally ill man.

Maurizo Perini, 36, is undergoing a mental health assessment.

Ms Clark said she often consoled friends and family of mentally ill people facing jail that their loved ones would be better looked after behind bars.

“When I’m trying to calm families I explain that their loved one will get the best possible care in jail,” she said.

“They will get the best possible medical attention, more than they would ever get on the outside.”

Ms Clark said what was needed was a return to asylums, which she said meant ‘place of safety’, where people with mental illness recovered safely before returning to the community.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the department did not support building asylums but instead advocated community-based rehabilitation.

“The beds are located in domestic-like community facilities which provide rehabilitation to people with psychiatric disabilities,” she said.

“The aim of the community-based rehabilitation beds is to restore skills and functioning to a level where the individual lives in more independent, long-term housing.”

The Health spokeswoman said assessment procedure included both physical and neurological checks and was grounded on evidence-based practice, research and literature.