StigmaWatch has today been contacted by several community members living with mental illness, and accessing mental health plans, who were very distressed to hear comments made by the Acting Chief Commissioner, Shane Patton, on Channel 9’s Today program this morning.
SANE Australia is very concerned about the references to the individual involved in the incident being on a mental health plan, missing an appointment and saying he was hearing voices.
There are currently more than 1.2 million Australians on a mental health plan. These plans help people experiencing mental health difficulties to access the services they need. We don’t want people who can benefit from such plans not to seek help because they feel they are being associated with the violent acts that took place yesterday.
We understand the community is looking to understand the motivation behind such a terrible incident. We also appreciate that these are challenging times for the community and, most especially the police, in light of the recent tragic events in Melbourne.
However, at this early stage of the investigation, and before any psychiatric evaluation is complete, it’s unhelpful to publicly speculate about the individual’s mental health and whether it is relevant to the incident.
This can perpetuate stigma which, in turn, can be a huge barrier to people seeking help for mental illness in the first place.
SANE Australia has had a strong and positive relationship with the Victoria Police stretching back many years, and we appreciate the challenges faced by individual officers on a regular basis.
Our thoughts are with all those affected by the incident.