The importance of improved mental health services

Now, more than ever, we need to talk about our mental health.

The Black Dog Institute has revealed that, in a recent survey, more than three quarters of people said their mental health had declined since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Access to treatment is essential; 75% of people admitted to public sector mental health inpatient services improve notably. For this reason, it’s critical that health professionals look at how they can support mental health patients. Our experience tells us that more focus is needed on improving support systems, treatment options, health plans and management strategies.

Saturday 10 October, 2020 is World Mental Health Day

As medical negligence lawyers we see, all too often, the devastating consequences of inadequate mental health support.

World Mental Health Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness of mental health concerns in our community. It’s a timely reminder that we need to increase support for those who are struggling and to remove barriers that prevent people from accessing effective treatment.

Duty of care for mental health patients must improve

Health professionals play a vital role in supporting people who come forward with mental health concerns. And yet it’s clear there remains a lack of critical support and treatment for patients – particularly with complex conditions. 

As medical negligence lawyers, we see too many cases of people ‘falling through the cracks’ of the health system, particularly following self-harm or suicide attempts. Too often, patients who seek treatment for mental health issues are not triaged appropriately and don’t have their symptoms and conditions effectively assessed or treated. Often they are discharged too early, without adequate assessment or lack of follow up.

The bottom line is that the mental health system needs more resources. It needs more doctors, more beds, and better training to respond to the current mental health crisis. Without this, people will continue to fall through the cracks.

The tragedy is that the majority of mental health issues are treatable and patients see good outcomes with appropriate treatment and support.

The importance of effective mental health consultations

There is evidence to suggest that effective follow up and management strategies – after someone has been discharged from hospital – can significantly reduce a patients’ risk of suicide.

According to the Black Dog institute, an effective mental health consultation should include:

  • a thorough assessment of a patients’ mental status
  • enough time to gather all relevant information
  • a comprehensive suicide risk assessment
  • confirmation that the person is medically stable and has sufficient social support when discharged
  • a diagnosis and pre-emptive management strategy. This includes consultation with the patients doctors, counsellors and community services regarding the discharge agreement.

Unfortunately this does not always happen. The mental health system needs to be properly resourced to ensure that every patient has access to consultations like this.

The cost of inadequate treatment

While effective consultations and treatment can make a big difference to someone seeking help, there are many times when this doesn’t occur. The consequences of this can be devastating and fatal.

In these cases, people can and do claim financial damages. Here at Maurice Blackburn we have represented family members of patients who suicided following inadequate medical treatment.

Sadly, mental health related medical negligence claims are rising. We’re seeing more cases where lack of support, supervision, treatment and aftercare result in someone taking their own life.

In some circumstances, small changes towards better support might have saved a life. Whether it is one more night in hospital, a specialist who investigates a condition further, or more support to a family of someone in crisis. 

Get support

If you are struggling with your mental health – or know someone who is – it’s important to reach out. In addition to speaking with family, friends and medical professionals, there are a number of support groups available which can help. These include:

  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14

If you, or someone you know, has suffered from inadequate mental health treatment, we can advise you of your legal rights and discuss options available to you. 

RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Medical negligence

Share this article on: