Brendan's story

Brendan's story

Brendan’s story demonstrates the value of mental health system consumers getting access to information about their rights, and support to have a greater say in their treatment.  

Brendan's story. Illustration of three diverse people.

Earlier this year I was admitted to a mental health service after being assessed in the community. My experiences with the treating doctor and his colleagues were horrible. I was diagnosed before I even walked through the door.

The doctor only asked me generic questions, he didn’t respect my rights, so I never trusted him.

When I was brought in, he told me that I was under the Act and that I had to take the medications he said. When I calmly disagreed or refused, he would threaten me with force.

The doctor misconstrued or misrepresented what I would say. This was clearest in a Mental Health Tribunal (MHT) report from the treating team.

There is no accountability for them getting it wrong or misconstruing it.

When I realised how unsafe I was in the service, I learnt about my rights, but it is not easy to exercise your rights when you don’t have any of the information you need.

In there I tried to access my own clinical notes but I was told I would have to go through this rigorous freedom of information process, so I gave up.

I was fortunate to get help from an advocate and lawyer who helped me make a stand when the doctor tried to increase my medication. At the MHT I was finally able to get a fair hearing. The doctor tried to get another order but the MHT didn’t grant it.

Everyone who goes through the system should have access to a legal and non-legal advocate to help with the MHT and clinicians. There should be a place in the hospital where advocates, lawyers and consumers can go to without interference, kind of like an embassy.

I had a follow up admission recently but with another psychiatrist. My experience was totally different. It was an equal and collaborative relationship. She asked for my story and acknowledged that I know what is going on for me.

How can there be such a big difference between these psychiatrists in the same service?

Psychiatrists need to be trained to understand what it’s actually like to have mental health issues and use services, and there should be more peer support.

Inpatient units should be places of healing. There should be healthy avenues for emotional release, like more musical equipment, exercise and gardening activities.

More information

Read more about Roads to Recovery – Building a Better System for People Experiencing Mental Health Issues in Victoria

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