Lengthy stays in Australia’s mental hospitals

If a recent report from New South Wales is to be believed, Australia needs to step into the twenty-first century. The Ombudsman for mental health facilities there has uncovered a few real horror stories. ABC News reported on the matter in a story bearing the headline, Psychiatric patients spending too long in hospital.

Bruce Barbour reviewed the files of 95 people in 11 mental health facilities across the State and found a lack of appropriate accommodation and support was leading to people being denied their right to live in the community.

His findings, in his own words, are startling.

“What was staggering was 13 people had been in hospital for over 20 years and indeed there were three people in hospital for over 40 years,” the Ombudsman said.

This is 13 people out of 95 people, well over 10 %. If the this selection accurately reflects the population in Australian mental institutions then there are way too many people abandoned, wasting away, and forgotten in them over long periods of their lifetimes.

“Two people had been in hospital from the time they were teenagers and that’s almost Dickensian, it’s just not something we should be seeing in the 21st century in this state.”

I think to call the situation ‘almost Dickensian’ is to understate it. Charles Dickens wouldn’t be so hard on the characters in his novels as the Australian authorities have been on some of their citizens.

Just think, some of these inmates have been incarcerated since a time when they were practically children. If children are innocent, such a claim can’t be made for their elders, particularly when their elders would condemn them to such a fate.