Coming Together for Recovery: Peer support principles come to the Forensic system

new forensic hospital

The Forensic Hospital, Malabar, NSW, is a high security, 135 bed mental health facility for male, female, adult and adolescent forensic and correctional patients and a limited number of high risk civil consumers.

Peer support can benefit people with mental health issues who are in prisons or who are staying in secure settings like the Forensic Hospital at Malabar NSW. Flourish Australia has been working with Justice Health to make it all happen.

The Together for Recovery project is an initiative of Justice Health and the Forensic Mental Health Network that aims to improve consumer participation in a high secure mental health facility in NSW.

The people who will benefit include:

• Persons found not guilty of an offence by reason of mental health issues, or who are unfit to plead because of mental health issues. Some people use the term ‘forensic patient.’
• Inmates of prisons who develop mental health issues while in custody
• Other people with mental health issues who are considered to require ‘a high secure environment’ by the justice system.

This is a very challenging project because in custody, personal choice can clash with public safety.

On the one hand, people in the forensic hospital have the same right as anyone to support for their recovery from mental health issues. On the other hand, the justice system has to manage the possible risk to the community.

A person who is in custody may well see support for their mental health issues as something forced upon them.

How do we encourage a person to take greater control over their lives when they are in custody? How can such people become empowered to participate in the community when they are deliberately separated from that community during their time in custody? How do we achieve this without putting the public at risk?

This is a very challenging project because in custody, personal choice can clash with public safety .

Because these sorts of questions need to be addressed, the project so far has involved the Consumer Consultants working with Senior Management, Policy and Procedure and Clinical Governance committees.

Consumer Consultants Peter and Patricia operate as peer workers within Flourish Australia, but at the Forensic Hospital their roles at the moment are a little different.
They advise management and clinical staff about how a person with lived experience might experience situations within the system, and about how to improve that experience. They do not advocate on behalf of individual patients, unless the issue may have broader application.

Adapted from a presentation given by Mark Orr and Peer Consultants Peter and Patricia on 24th August 2016

Moving On Group

Reported by Consumer Consultant Patricia

“I have been facilitating a Moving On group which is aimed at providing a sense of ‘hope’ to people who have been referred to a medium security unit. Peter and I initially shared ideas and developed the 15 week pilot program together. I tend to use ice breakers to get people warmed up for a session. One of these included having people sing or recite a favourite line of a song to the group.The Moving On group is going to be run again this term on a wider basis.”

“A highlight of last year was just before Christmas when I joined a handful of staff and patient volunteers to visit the courtyards of each ward singing Christmas carols. We sang carols including the Aussie version of the jingle bells song (which is so funny) and Silent Night amongst a few others. One of the people (patients) sang a solo to the others in one of the wards. It was a very touching experience.”

Read more reports on peer support principles in the forensic system in the next issue of Panorama, June 2017

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