Mental health consumers dismayed by misleading Four Corners report

VMIAC and its members are deeply concerned by an ABC Four Corners episode ‘Don’t judge us’. 

In a 60-minute episode that described people with mental health issues as malingerers, violent, and a danger to the community, the ABC failed to interview a single consumer, consumer advocate or consumer peak body. 

 ‘At best, this is a lack of oversight and due-diligence. At worst, it is another example of consumers being marginalized and silenced when our voice matters most.‘ said CEO, Tricia Szirom.   

Throughout the report there was prominent use of discriminatory and stigmatizing language, as well as calls for forced treatment that is in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with a Disability. 

If consumers and consumer groups were interviewed, we would have highlighted that people diagnosed with mental health issues are much more likely to be victims of violence, and that we want radical changes to the system, not just more access to it. Unfortunately, this did not happen and consumers who watched this report were extremely distressed being portrayed in this way. 

‘I was deeply disturbed by last night’s report. Our members tell every day about the abuse they experience by the system. Forced treatment, seclusion and restraint. In failing to account for consumers in their story, the media has once again demonized us and erased our concerns.’ Tricia Szirom, CEO VMIAC. 

‘If the ABC plans to report on mental health in the future, it must hear from critical consumer voices, and not just the mental health industry.’ Tricia Szirom, CEO VMIAC. 

We are reaching out to ABC regarding this episode explaining the above, as well as imploring them to work with us to develop an episode that tells the truth about people living with mental and emotional distress. 

If yourself or anyone you know has been distressed by this report from ABC Four Corners, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

8 thoughts on “Mental health consumers dismayed by misleading Four Corners report

  1. Hi

    I agree with what Tricia Szirom is saying.
    We are being blamed and demonised yet again. They are telling us to go and get help from a system that had abused, terrorised and bullied many of us. Are they crazy?

    Anna Lampugnani

  2. The ABC continues in its work as a voice for the neofacsist Liberal Government. The issue here is not merely the broadcaster but the disgusting and shameful behaviour of the Australian Government towards all disabled people.

  3. Watching the 4 Corners show felt like a big step back in time. It felt like mental illness and or emotional distress was being simplistically defined but also aligned with violence and danger and automatically being a burden.

    That just hits the fear buttons of those that misunderstand the illnesses / emotional distressed and confirms their biases- that then often ends in actions to degrade intimidate harass or discriminate – isn’t these actions with prolonged ( as they often are) defined as abuse and violence.

    There is a reason it’s said “ 1 in 4 may experience mental illness but it’s the 3 others that can be more the problem!”

    There was also opportunity to really highlight how the legal system adds to the discrimination and misunderstanding too.

    The show seemed infer it’s always the health service that fails. It’s not.
    Lots of systems and services need address their misunderstanding and their policies and procedures while they’re at it!

  4. Hi Tricia

    Yes, I saw the report. I was fuming afterwards but unfortunately not surprised.

    Please push for the ABC to not just publish a one-off episode. Encourage them and/or 4 corners to do a series of sorts with public debate input, which in my opinion, would work much better for our cause.

    I for one, as you know, will be right behind you and VMIAC giving voice to all those who can’t.

    Feel free to give all the disgusting details of my personal story if it will help. As a victim/survivor of domestic abuse, currently ‘couch surfing’ because the local CATT team and police are trying to silence me as a ‘whistle blower,’ I have reams of paperwork (including falsified police reports and hospital paperwork that has conveniently gone missing into cyperspace) that will make the public sit up and take note. My story is happening now and ironically, it is so unbelievable very few people actually believe me.

    I sent a lot of information to VMIAC only last week about what’s been happening to me (and is still occurring) with the intention of putting in a submission to the Royal Commission into the Mental Health Act 2014 (Victoria). I’ve been getting assistance from the Mental Health Legal Centre and I had an extension to put in my submission. At the last minute I withdrew it because of safety concerns.

    I’m now working actively with the team at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. They can offer me a lot more in terms of protection on all fronts.

    That’s not to say I don’t intend going public at some stage. It just seemed too risky right now to put everything I’ve got to say in writing. A lot of jobs (police and psychiatrists included) will be on the line when I eventually go down the legal path.

    Anyway, please consider what I have written above. The abuse has got to stop. It’s ridiculous and it’s just not on. And it needs to stop NOW. Not after a Royal Commission enquiry which may or may not put forth our recommendations. Furthermore, recommendations are just that. Recommendations. As we know, sometimes that’s all they remain and nothing much changes.

    As I keep harping on too, all the effort and time consumers are putting in designing new models of care will never get off the ground without serious legislative change (particularly in Victoria). Without that, compulsory admissions and chemical, physical and mechanical restraints for instance, will still exist, and until these two unacceptable practices stop, people like myself will be forever vulnerable to abuse by a system that is seriously flawed.

    Social justice reform is the responsibility of everyone, not just the few banging on about it. I for one, am fed up with the lack of empathy at best and the total apathy at worst that exists amongst the general public when it comes to actually doing something that will make a difference.

    I challenge the general public to literally get off their comfortable chairs and demonstrate how ‘we’re all in it together’ by not just listening to those who clearly aren’t, but by being proactive and actually DOING SOMETHING that will make a positive and lasting change for ALL Australians.



  5. What exactly are you upset about with the episode ? I was on that episode and wanted to tell the public some of our horrible experience with the so called mental health system and how hard it is For family’s to get there sick loved ones help . I was also speaking on the behalf of my sick loved one who is now well . The public need to know the truth behind our failing mental health system .
    Why are you hating on 4 corners ? We have had nothing but beautiful positive feed back from the episode . This episode was about people who had a run in with the justice system whilst having an episode and in some cases there first ever episode!

  6. I am very distressed by your reaction to this program. There was nothing factually inaccurate in the program. You want to deny these families who have suffered in a horrific way a voice to just explain what happened to them. The program was not about people with schizophrenia or mental illness as a whole . It was about the specific experiences of these people and how the mental health system failed them and the people who killed because of severe psychotic illness..
    The government has basically withdrawn from the responsibility to care for those with severe psychotic illness, and families cannot cope. Sometimes this ends in tragedy with innocent people being killed. Of course it is rare – murder full stop is rare. The fact that we have a legal concept of “ not guilty by reason of insanity “ and forensic hospitals bursting at the seams , means that severe psychotic illness can cause someone to murder. This fact might be unpalatable to you but it is true.
    Far more common are families shattered by the experience of caring for the severely mentally ill and the lack of help from the health system.Actually the burden falls far more on mothers – the rest of the family scatters. 4 Corners was quite explicit that most people with mental illness are not violent and never will be. The program even made clear that some forensic patients recover completely with good treatment – something that was not available before they killed. Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend these things don’t happen! Your overreaction is an insult to the traumatised people who were prepared to tell their story. I have “ lived experience” of schizophrenia. My 2 great aunts had it, my mother had it, and my son has it. My mother was one of the most beautiful, intelligent , imaginative and loving people ever to walk this earth. She was a wonderful mother.She related particularly well with children and animals. I was going to say she was never violent in her life, but then I remembered she got into an altercation with the police who charged her with assaulting 6 policemen! They thought she was drunk but she was a teetotaller. She actually spent 3 weeks in gaol before my sister and I were able to get her released “ no conviction recorded”once we could explain to a solicitor and court what her real circumstances were.
    My son on the other hand has been violent ( nearly killed me once till he realised who I was) not to mention major property damage Including smashing up his 85 year old grandmother’s house , for which he spent some time in gaol. Gaol caused a full psychotic breakdown and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This happened 12 years ago and in the meantime life has not been easy for our family as a result of his illness (eg he accused his uncle of poisoning him and rang him up and threatened to kill him).
    I appreciate the fact that enormous and ignorant stigma exists about schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is an aspect of someone’s life. It does not define them. It does not mean people are crazy or violent . But please recognise that very occasionally it can make people do terrible things.Surely as a society we can do everything possible to prevent this. That does mean responding to urgent calls for help from people with schizophrenia and their families, and sometimes necessitates being scheduled. One would have to have an absolute lack of compassion and human sympathy to refuse the families shown on 4 corners the right to tell their story. The right not to be murdered takes precedence over the right to be offended.

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