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Back in 1983 the Richmond Report recommended the closing of psychiatric hospitals and the opening of community health centres to look after people who suffered mental illness. It was not meant to be a cost saving exercise. Rather, it was meant to provide a better standard of service; an improvement on merely taking people out of the community and shutting them away in institutions.

What actually happened was something vastly different. Successive governments used it as a means of saving money. So the resources that were meant to flood community health centres never eventuated.

Sewing the seeds of distress

During the next decades lots of people with mental illness transitioned from care to jail. Also, not enough community health centres were established; and those that were didn’t have adequate funding. The result was that staff became overworked and overstressed. It’s not surprising they struggled to provide even a basic level of support for those in need.

I see the results of this every day at my Foundation. A large percentage of Sydney’s homeless who visit us for a meal also suffer mental illness. Getting professional help for these people is a nightmare. To get them into appropriate care or hospitalisation is even more difficult.

What’s worse is that when we can find these homeless people care in a hospital it’s not unusual for them to be later discharged with almost no support services. The homeless who suffer mental illness are often left to fend for themselves.

Suffering mental illness alone

The awful reality of our society is that if you have a psychiatric illness and you don’t have loved ones to care for you, you are totally on your own. It’s almost as if these people are expected to get well through osmosis!

An enormous percentage of the health budget is taken up by simply running hospitals and allied health services. However, what I have learned is that when we overlook one needy cohort in our society, eventually the whole of society suffers.

This is what we are seeing now as people who really need help don’t get it. Indeed, the outcomes are catastrophic. What is required was laid out over 40 years ago in that Richmond Report. However, it takes government will and action to make sure it happens.

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  1. Cassandra 18 April 2024 at 20:00 - Reply

    The Richmond Report endorsed the systematic closure of psychiatric hospitals which caused a significant transition of cared for patients to forgotten homeless.

    • Bill Crews 22 April 2024 at 15:58 - Reply

      I’m doing all I can to push for change, Cassandra.
      God Bless,

  2. Megan 9 May 2024 at 18:52 - Reply

    Love you Bill xo
    -the mentally ill need counsellors, therapists and social workers and support from peers. Voluntary support groups too. They are rarely dangerous.

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