Institutions without walls still institutions, says mental health researcher

September 01, 2005

Mental health researcher Dr Lorna Moxham continues to find that people with mental illness may be de-institutionalised but often remain under institution-like conditions.

Dr Moxham said that being based in the community often meant life was still like living in an institution anyway - the very thing community care was trying to avoid.

"I know of adults who still have strict bedtimes and mealtimes and who are not allowed to have posters on their bedroom walls ... autonomy and choice , the very essence of community living is often lacking," she said.

Dr Moxham said mentally-ill people, particularly women, were also highly vulnerable to attack in community settings. People mistakenly worry about mentally ill people being violent when, more often than not, mentally ill people are the ones subject to the violence.

She said some mentally-ill people would be better off in asylums, where they at least had access to therapeutic recreation options. For example, tending to vegetable gardens supplying nearby hospitals could give patients a sense of self-worth.

"Unfortunately, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater when people were de-institutionalised," she said.

"We should look at having a range of housing options, including asylums, in the sense that asylums are supposed to be places of safety."
For details call Dr Moxham on or +61 7 4930 9894.

Research Australia

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