Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mental health & homelessness...

Document updated 21st Nov’ 2010


ACAP Student ID: 171297

Name: Rajneesh N. Shetty
Course: Bachelor’s of Applied Social Science.


Unit/module: Introduction to contemporary society

Educator: Phillipa Bellemore

Assessment name: Mental health and homelessness

Assessment number:

Term & year: Term 1

Word count: 1841 words as actual content of essay, and 2508 words in all.

For the purposes of comparing and contrasting the reporting of "mental health &
homelessness" in two
or three media outlets and demonstrate how the media influences public
opinion on this topic; I have chosen to study coverage in the ABC and News Corporation.
The three most pertinent statements I made in Assignment 1 as it relates to this matter is that;

● "Contemporary healing initiatives in treating mental illness and homelessness are only
successful if holistic methods are employed".
● "The stigmatisation of mental illness in society is one of the major barriers to recovery
and treatment and traditional views will need to be challenged and tested to create a marked shift inperception".
● "The ability of a person to respond constructively to challenges in their daily lives
determines their state of mental health".

Creating awareness on this matter vide the media would definitely fall into the category of a "holistic approach". On a personal note, I would like to add that my motivations for choosing this topic is because I have been battling a mental illness myself for well over twenty years and have experienced homelessness in the context as explained in Assignment 1, being that, homelessness is not a purely housing based concept but has significant emotional, social and psychological dimensions (Somerville, 1992).

F. Grunberg and P.J. Eagle wrote that homelessness included the concept of disaffiliation from family and community” (as cited in the website for, Homeless People and Homelessness). Contemporary definitions of homelessness take into account the human need for connectedness which engenders trust and a sense of well being. I introduced Maslow's hierarchy of needs for an individual as being quite fundamental to mental health and opportunities for personal development as opposed to the other end of the spectrum, whereby the resourceful (ie. those who control the means of production) could quite easily use it for selfish personal agendas. Hence, is the media fulfilling it's obligations to act as the "social conscience" rather than present and influence the "collective consciousness" is a valid question, in my view. Does the media prejudice society around "mental illness &homelessness" or does it raise general awareness? Does or has the media attempted to potray what the patients of mental illness have to cope with ? Does the media alleviate public anxieties or does it add to it? From the material I have come across so far, I am certain that there are no easy answers to any of these questions for a variety of reasons, which I will attempt to elaborate on.

Social stratification is so entrenched in capitalistic societies that, we would like to believe that human behaviour has evolved from primitive primal tribal hordes to feudal concepts of monarchies and religion to socio-politico-economic frameworks of an acceptable nature as all of these structures have their place in the mind of a reasonable individual. Is there any rationale in attempting to "re-invent the wheel" much rather than make it better than what it currently is, is also a good question for introspection and would require expertise of varied dimensions.

In Assignment 1, I defined "mental health as a continuum, ranging from a state of optimum
health, to having an illness or disorder which affects thoughts, emotions or behaviour". I justified this further by adding that the different types of disorders, which occur to varying degrees of severity are usually found to be based in the two extremes of anxiety and depression. Both anxiety and depressive disorders are found to be prevalent amongst people who have trouble living in the “here and now” or present reality. Anxiety based disorders are usually because a person is distressed by thoughts of the future which he or she has no control over and depression is usually found in people predominantly occupied by painful thoughts and emotions of the past.

I explained the causes of mental illness as being varied and complex and could arise from
genetic predispositions to certain conditions, pre-natal trauma experienced, environmental
conditioning which usually relates to family, culture, society and education, and personality
development based on life experiences. Studies suggest that there is often a biological change
associated with mental illness, such as a change in neurotransmitter levels in the brain, or
variations in brain activity as shown by imaging techniques.

Statistics from Assignment 1:
About 20% of adult Australians, or one in five people, will experience a mental illness at some
stage in their lives. Many will live with more than one mental illness at a time, such as anxiety and depression, which commonly occur together. Each year a further 20,000 Australians are found to have a mental illness. Schizophrenia is prevalent amongst 1% of the population, whilst the numbers for depression, anxiety based disorders and psychosis stands at between 3-5%.
The 2001 population census data for homeless Australians takes into account people without
adequate shelter and the numbers indicate 99,900 houseless people (105,304 in 1996). The
common reasons cited for homelessness are; domestic and family violence (22%), eviction/previous accommodation ended (11%), relationship/family breakdown (11%), usual accommodation unavailable (11%) and financial difficulty (10%).

The ABC and News Corp. in it's recent statements and interviews with eminent people
perceived as responsible for the “state of mental health of the Country” has shed some light on
the current state of play with regards to "mental health & homelessness". Examples include,
John Mendonza's resignation due his views on the Labor Party's lack of vision under Kevin
Rudd and Julia Gillard's re-building of bridges with Mr.Mendonza due to his esteemed position
in the mental health field. All very stimulating and motivational for the mentally ill I am sure, but really, a complete waste of time in more ways than one. The Australian Government has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanisthan, and these soldiers have returned or will be returning soon, with varying degrees of exposure to a "conflict zone". Their opinions are going to matter as also their state of mental health based on how their exposure to conflict will or has affected their personal relationships. Budgetary and resource allocations will need to be made to accomodate "Federal commitments" on both sides of the fence, both long term and short term.

Differences of opinions will ensue on many matters, considering that Australia is and has been positioning itself as a "multi-cultural" society with a historical record of playing the "rescuer" (Transactional Analysis 101, Eric Berne) in many a strife torn part of the world. "Pragmatism, a laid back approach, egalitarianism, social consciousness, patience, a sense of humour and an openness to learning" are the qualities that endear Australians to the world as a "unique" lot, and there's no reason why it cannot stay that way.

On the 5th August of 2005, News Corp. in it’s “Breaking news” section announced the formation
of the MHIT (mental health intervention team) as a permanent police unit in NSW. As part of the
two year pilot program 40 Officers from the Sydney command unit were to have undertaken the
training. This seems like a positive approach and definitely seems worthwhile considering the
challenges I foresee. On the 23rd Sept 2010, ABC posted a statement at 11.07am EST, that the
Victorian Government launched a $42million strategy to tackle the causes of homelessness
over the next decade. The money is to be used to shift policy focus from response to early
intervention, which comes across as a reasonable idea, if there are sufficient skilled workers in the subject area being discussed. I have consulted with numerous professionals in the mental
health field over the years and they all agree that the “mental health field” has the highest
burn-out rate in terms of professional attrition and next only to the teaching profession. Is it
not responsible to ask why that is the case ? When I consider what mental health and medical
professionals have done for me over the years, I am often intrigued. Yes, I am better now and
not yet well enough to have a credible viewpoint on a subjective matter, hence leaving it well
alone may not be a responsible enough position for those concerned. I might need to elaborate
on this matter in Assignment 3.

Another matter which is often ignored is that of “personal privacy”. Mentally ill people usually tend to be more sensitive than most not afflicted by a condition and am told that they are also comparatively more intelligent than their surroundings. The rationale for this viewpoint is that, it is their perceptions that get in the way of their expectations of life and people in general. Does this mean that “systemic prejudices” actually exist and exhaust the mentally ill even further ?

In his study of Soren Kierkegaard, William J Tsamis in his blog states that the ethical life of
duty and commitment, the existent pursues a life of virtue and moral assent to the universal;
however, a truly earnest attempt to live such a life eventually results in the individual's
awareness of his own insufficiency and shortcomings. He realizes that his autonomous internal
volitional powers are unable to bring him to the level of an authentic ethical existence. Thus,
the existent reaches the classic point of "despair" and is again faced with the critical "choice" of "Either/Or," i.e. whether to make the transition to the next level, i.e. the religious sphere of existence. We can then thereby embark on a critical analysis of religion and perception rather than report on the representative public figures.

A little definition of media:
Media is essentially of two kinds, namely; print & electronic. Contemporary examples of print media include; books, newspapers and displays (both private and public). Electronic media is essentially of three kinds, namely; audio (eg. radio, tape recorder), video (eg. television, movies) and integrated “real time” public domain systems (eg. internet). Real time communications refer to concepts of latency, frequency, pitch, operating systems, networks, connectivity, data to information to quality paradigms, consistencies or inconsistencies, compatibilities or incompatibilities, technical issues or the lack of thereof.

Ownership of media is an interesting matter as it comprises of privately owned entities as well as entities owned by the public sector. This would essentially mean or translate into equal opportunity for all citizens. Responsible reporting however relates to matters of perception, beliefs, idealogies, jurisdiction, education, projection and agendas which are all perfectly normal democratic principles.

Conclusion :
I do not foresee finality on many matters as they relate to mental health and homelessness for
a many reasons, but fundamentally because human evolution is a process and “utopia” is an
ideal everyone strives for. Wants and desires vary, resources and access to resources vary in
the continuum, ideals vary, personal values vary, objectives vary and people change over time
in the space continuum we call our one and only planet “ the earth”.

Do we as a species have the wherewithal to fathom the future or come to precise conclusions
on the past. I guess not and hope not, because all the imperfections that exist today look
perfectly beautiful and normal in the entire scheme of things.

● “The Universal theory of design”, Francis J. Mott ; Edenbridge : Mark Beech, 1964.

“African Genesis”; A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of
Man : Robert Ardrey

Raimo Vayrynen, “New Directions in Conflict Theory”

Soren Kierkegaard – “Existentialism, nominalism, and the three spheres of existence".

● The Psychology of shame : Theory and treatment of shame based syndromes :
Gershan Kaufman

● I’am OK, you’re OK : Thomas Harris

● Games people play : Eric Berne

Australian Broadcasting Corporation :
“Plan to tackle homelessness”; posted on Thursday Sept 23rd, 2010 11:07 am

“Report finds urgent homeless problems”; posted on Thursday 1st July 2010 08:26am

“No room at the shelter for young homeless” ; by Bronwyn Herbert; posted on Thursday Apr
29th, 2010

“Youth mental health project launched” by David Cussons; Wednesday 27th Oct’ 2010.

“Human rights and homelessness” by Lucy Adams on 7th July 2010.

“It takes a home to combat homelessness” by Charlotte King on 15th Sept’ 2010.

“Calls for more Government action on homelessness” an ABC release posted on Friday, 5th
Sept’ 2008.

“New plan to combat homelessness”, an ABC release posted on Friday 18th Dec’ 2009 at 1:pm

“Jean Madden delivers a message about homelessness”, by Andrew Saunders and Julia Harris
on the 8th Oct’,2010 2:59pm AEDT

“Older women forced into homelessness”; by Sue Lannin posted on Thursday 8th July, 2010 at
7:09pm AEST

“Roxon defends mental health record”; broadcast on the 22nd June 2010 and reported on by
Kerry O’Brian at 7:30pm EST

“Coalition calls in top mental health experts to brief all MPs”; reported on by Lyndall Curtis on Wednesday 17th Nov’ 2010 at 08:11am EST.

“The new age of mental health care” by Justin Huntsdale on 29th Oct’ 2010 at 9:25am AEDT

“Bad jobs affect mental health” by Katherine Nightingale on Thursday, 14th Oct’ 2010.

“Mental health : Rudd’s inaction and neglect” by Patrick McGorry on 13th May 2010.

“MP’s urged to back mental health plan” by Emma Rodgers on 17th Nov’, 2010 at 11:30am

News Corporation :

“PM Rudd’s top mental health advisor John Mendonza quits”, reported on by AAP at 06:42am
on 20th June 2010.
“Scheme to support mentally ill a failure, says Ombudsman”, reported on by AAP at 11:55am on
11th Nov’ 2009.
“Mentally ill of all ages need services”, reported on by Vaughan Carr of “The Australian” at 12:00
noon on 8th July 2010.
“Minds put on the line”, reported on by Madonna King of the “Courier Mail” at 11:07am on 2nd
Aug’ 2010.
“Labor called out on mental health as Coalition commits $1.5bn to the sector”, reported on by
AAP at 01:36PM on 30th June 2010.
“Gillard turns to Rudd’s mental health nemesis”, reported on by Lanai Vasek and Sid Maher of
“The Australian” at 12:00 noon on the 27th July 2010.
“Mental health promises are not bidding war”, reported on by Pat McGorry of “The Australian” at
12:00 noon on the 9th July 2009.
“Greens defend mental health approach”, reported on by AAP AT 4:25pm on the 2nd Nov’ 2010.
“Victorian Government pledges extra $42m for homeless”, reported on by AAP at 5:38pm on
23rd Sept’ 2010.
“Police to get mental health training” ; Aug 5th 2009 7:05am
The Mental Health Council of Australia (2010). Retrieved October 16th, 2010, from
Homeless People and homelessness (2010). Retrieved October 23rd, 2010 from
ResponseAbility; Department Of Health and Ageing (2010). Retrieved October 18th, 2010 from
Diversity Health Institute (2010). Retrieved October 23rd, 2010 from
Sane Australia (2010). Retrieved October 16th, 2010 from
Animal Peace (2010). Retrieved October 12th, 2010 from
William J. Tsamis

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