In February 2019, a Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System was announced, with the final report being published in February 2021. The Victorian Government has agreed to adopt all 65 recommendations, amounting to a complete overhaul of the mental health system.
Seniors Rights Victoria made a submission to the Commission, explaining the intersections between older people who had experienced elder abuse and the mental health system. The final report made mention of the needs of older people with mental health concerns; carers of people who are mentally unwell; and the need to address loneliness and social isolation. However, it did not make any recommendations or comments related to the experience of elder abuse by someone with mental illness, or caring for someone with mental illness.
What we did
Seniors Rights Victoria was keen to make sure these intersections between older people, mental health and elder abuse were more well recognised. In particular, we wanted to ensure there this understanding that:
- Experiencing mental illness can make a person more vulnerable to being abused
- Experiencing elder abuse can harm a person’s mental wellbeing and cause mental illness such as anxiety and depression
- Older people caring for an adult child or family member who is mentally unwell can be at risk of experiencing elder abuse, and require support specific to their situation.
We wrote a discussion paper summarising the issues, which made comment on the Commission’s report and suggestions for how older people could be better supported.
We launched this discussion paper at a Lunch and Learn webinar event with Elder Abuse Action Australia. The webinar featured a discussion of issues related to the paper.
- Facilitator: Professor Briony Dow, Director, National Ageing Institute
- Professor Joe Ibrahim, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University.
- Melanie Joosten, Policy Officer, Seniors Rights Victoria.
- Elizabeth (Libby) Love, Senior Social Worker, Older Persons’ Mental Health, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney.
- Patricia Reyes, Geriatrician, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney.
The webinar was promoted on the SRV website, Compass.info and on Plenty Valley FM.
This discussion report has brought attention to the intersection of mental health, older people and elder abuse. It provides a point of collation for those working in the ageing, mental health, health and family violence sectors, and can act as a starting point for discussion between these sectors.
The webinar drew an audience of 97 attendees from across Australia. 180 people had responded to the invitation and may have accessed the recording at a later date.