Psychiatrists are calling on the Victorian Government to introduce women-only mental health facilities to address the unacceptable incidences of violence against women in the system. This will be a step towards ensuring that all services provide safe and non-judgemental environments that are sensitive to people’s individual gender identities along with gender safety in all bed-based services.
The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System recommended the introduction of women-only facilities and programs as a way of addressing incidences of violence against women within facilities and in order to ensure women are getting the tailored support they need.
The Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Victorian Branch says that while there are a very small number of women-only facilities available in the state, the Victorian Government has a responsibility to scale-up access for all women in need of mental health support.
“Unfortunately, incidents of violence against women patients in mixed-gender inpatient psychiatric units do occur. Women should be able to access the mental healthcare they need with dignity in safe, private and secure places,” said Dr Astha Tomar, Chairwoman of the RANZCP Victorian Branch.
“A 2018 report by the Mental Health Complaint Commission in Victoria found high rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment within acute mental health inpatient units in the state – which are predominantly mixed gender – with women making up about 80% of those raising concerns about sexual safety.
“The Royal Commission recommended the Victorian State Government ensure that
existing high dependency units in inpatient facilities and other inpatient facilities allow for gender-based separation, but we’re still yet to see real action on the issue.
“In too many cases, public mental health and wellbeing services across Victoria are non-therapeutic environments, or unsafe for consumers, carers and the workforce.
“There are several successful prototypes of women-only services within Victoria, including WPARC (Women’s Prevention and Recovery Care Centres) at Sunshine and women-only inpatient units in the public-funded Alfred Hospital and private Cabrini Hospital. These have been well received by consumers, carers and clinicians.”
The RANZCP has been calling on the State Government to ensure equitable access to women’s only mental health facilities, including increased availability of Prevention and Recovery Care Centres (PARC) in each catchment.
“Safety and privacy for women seeking support within the public mental health and wellbeing system can only be achieved through a commitment to gender sensitivity.
“We strongly urge the Andrews Labor Government to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission and rebuild existing inpatient facilities in a manner that ensures safety for women.
“The RANZCP Victorian Branch is requesting an urgent meeting with Mental Health Minister Williams to discuss this further,” said Dr Tomar.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.
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