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. As a carer advocate, I applaud this program for courageously wading into a political minefield. I respect the bravery of carers, who perhaps a first time, had opportunity to speak publicly of the systemic barriers to care and its consequences for a loved one with severe mental ill-health. For once the everyday trauma experienced particularly by these carers are made visible and visual for public attention. The motivations for the hostile reactions of some respondents are unclear. However, they do reveal a lack of awareness of what it is like being a full-time carer of someone with acute and ongoing mental illness –

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