I read with interest your article on the Roberton Lodge Saga and I commend your balanced approach. You made some valid points particularly when you said that homes such as the Roberton Lodge serves a vital role. And exactly where do people suffering from mental illness live if they are not wanted in the community?
As the mother of a daughter who developed a mental illness some twenty-five years ago I feel qualified to make a few comments on the way people with mental illness are treated in a discriminatory way. Incidentally my daughter is now doing well on good medication and has done for quite some time, but with a small degree of remaining disability. Fortunately, she lives among her own family.
If we talk about community surely that should include all members within it. We have sympathy and give support to people who suffer any number of physical illnesses and physical disabilities. We even recognise dementia as something that needs our care and attention and it is talked about, although sometimes reluctantly. But where is the sympathy and support for people with severe mental health problems? A mental health problem is also an illness.
Often the lack of understanding can stem from ignorance, and the unwillingness to understand. The general public may have a misconception of what mental illness really is and this is often not helped by media portrayal. Every person with a mental health issue has their own particular set of symptoms. We cannot generalise. It’s true that some awful crimes have been committed by people who have become very unwell. But most people with a mental health issue do not commit crimes. It could be argued that society itself could even be held responsible for those that do, for allowing people to fall through the cracks and not providing adequate treatment, care and support. It is always mental health that is at the end of the queue for health funding.
People in need of support and care need to be provided for in the community and this is precisely why we need houses where our vulnerable feel safe and protected. They also need back up care from community mental health services and the community need to know that these are in place. I see from your article that the lodge manager maintains close contact with these. If basic material needs are given priority, then a person is more likely to remain well. I should point out that more often than not when a person becomes mentally unwell, it is difficult to maintain friendships and friends often drift away. It is also difficult to maintain social interaction and the person can become isolated and marginalised.
If we talk to other people we may find that many have someone within their own family who has a mental illness or who has had one in the past, or knows someone who has in their family. They may be just reluctant to talk about it. We never know what is in the future for us. We might be the one needing care.
In many big cities of the world you will see the homeless. Some are there because they wish to be. Others are clearly very unwell. A community can be judged by the way they treat their most vulnerable.
Thank you for presenting your article and putting across an alternative approach.
Jai, John, Kerrie, Lance, Lisa, Suzy, Varsha