Michelle’s story

Michelle’s story

Michelle’s story demonstrates why it is so important for people in mental health services to have early access to support and advocacy, from our Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service.

We have changed Michelle’s name to protect her privacy.


‘The mental health system is absolutely terrifying. It’s the most disempowering environment I’ve ever experienced.

In Victoria, I was taken to hospital by the police after an argument with a family member.

I was not assessed for three days. When I was, I felt railroaded and bullied by the psychiatrist. I wasn’t allowed to have a support person of my choice with me.

I have women’s health issues but my request for a female doctor was denied, so my needs were ignored. 

There are people in hospital who know they have mental health issues. I knew I had a physical health problem, but no one would listen to me.

The first thing they do in hospital is to medicate you, they don’t consider any other option and you don’t get a say.

It felt like they were going at the speed of light to forcibly medicate me. The drugs make it difficult to think clearly and you don’t know how to argue against it. 

The psychiatrists and The Mental Health Tribunal didn’t pay any attention to the issues I raised. By the time I received help from the Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service, decisions had already been made about the way they would treat me.

It was so overwhelming and intimidating, and the Tribunal is failing people as a system.

It’s supposed to be a hospital but to me it felt more like a prison. You get woken up every hour with a torch in your face. They say it is because they need to check that you’re still breathing but there are other ways to do that.

They also search your belongings every day for contraband. There was no compassion.

I was meant to start a new job the day after I was put in hospital, but I lost that job. I wasn’t eligible for any social security support while I was in hospital. I have never been so broke in my life, it was humiliating.

After six weeks I was discharged to a community care team, but I felt even more harassed and humiliated by them. I did not receive an ounce of support.

I was forcibly medicated for six months. I experienced severe side-effects, but I wasn’t respected when I raised my concerns or those of the specialist treating me for physical health issues.

Now that I'm off the medication and away from mental health services I feel 110 per cent better.

But I lost my chosen career because of this, and that is gut-wrenching.’

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