Emergency mental health apprehensions continue to increase dramatically

Dominic Giannini 7 January 2021 9
Police car and ambulance outside hospital.

Emergency mental health apprehensions continue to increase in the ACT. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The number of emergency apprehensions of someone experiencing a mental health emergency has increased dramatically again, after more than doubling in recent years, according to ACT Health’s most recent annual report.

There were 2460 people apprehended under the ACT’s Mental Health Act in 2019-2020, the vast majority of who were at the hands of paramedics and police.

This is an increase from 2059 and 1271 in the respective preceding years.

More than 50 per cent of the people apprehended in 2019-2020 were then detained for up to three days and transported to an approved mental health facility, which is almost a 20 per cent increase from the previous year.

Around 40 per cent of these people – a total of 535 – had their detention extended by up to 11 days.

The increase has been attributed to the “increase in mental health presentations observed in the overall population”, wrote ACT Chief Psychiatrist Dr Denise Riordan.

The number of apprehensions is expected to drop due to an expansion of the Police, Ambulance and Clinical Early Response (PACER) program, she hypothesised.


READ ALSO: Safe Haven Cafes – bridging the gap between crises and ED – set for January rollout


“This integrated service model offers a clinician coordinated response in collaboration with police officers and paramedics, which means that many people receive appropriate support in their home or are transported voluntarily to hospital,” wrote Dr Riordan.

“In addition, amendments to the Mental Health Act mean that people who contact emergency services for mental health assistance and who are seeking assistance voluntarily will … be transported as voluntary clients.

“Both of these initiatives will ensure the Canberra community continues to receive high level mental health care in the least restrictive manner possible.”

Four forensic psychiatric treatment orders – which covers a person who has a mental illness and is detained in a correctional centre, or is serving a community-based sentence – were authorised in 2019-2020. They were the first orders in at least four years.

Ten detainees were also transferred from the Alexander Maconochie Centre to the Dhulwa Mental Health Unit in 2019-2020.


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9 Responses to Emergency mental health apprehensions continue to increase dramatically
Grace Byrne Grace Byrne 9:03 pm 11 Jan 21

And act health still has zero idea on how to deal with the mentally ill and the sad reality is many more lives will be lost

Natalie Gresham Natalie Gresham 3:56 pm 11 Jan 21

No great suprise for anyone aware of mental health services. When NDIS came in ACT Govt no longer provided funding for the NGO community mental health sector programs. So a great number of people who had support from then but do not qualify for NDIS have had no support for a few years now and without those supports to stay well they end up chronically unwell. It's not rocket science ACT Govt 😰

Samuel Gordon-Stewart Samuel Gordon-Stewart 7:22 pm 10 Jan 21

This is terrifying. Once the state can forcefully detain people because of what is alleged to be in a person’s mind, there is no limit to the power of the state. 1984 wasn’t meant to be an instruction manual.

    Leos Nikias Leos Nikias 10:18 pm 10 Jan 21

    Samuel Gordon-Stewart

    When someone kills another and they blame their alleged mental health state, they should be let free to roam amongst us!

    Eugene Snorkelberry Eugene Snorkelberry 10:33 pm 10 Jan 21

    Samuel Gordon-Stewart Oh please.

    Samuel Gordon-Stewart Samuel Gordon-Stewart 10:43 pm 10 Jan 21

    Leos Nikias No. In that case they physically committed a crime and should be held accountable. I don’t believe mental health should ever be an acceptable defence in a court of law.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 2:08 pm 11 Jan 21

    1984 was a critique of Orwell's time

    Bob Jones Bob Jones 4:54 am 12 Jan 21

    Samuel Gordon-Stewart they aren't talking about thought crimes you numpty. They are talking about people who are in imminent danger of hurting themselves or someone else. More book reading, less conspiracy theories.

    Samuel Gordon-Stewart Samuel Gordon-Stewart 6:31 am 12 Jan 21

    Bob Jones One and the same in my book. Unless and until there is physical manifestation of an aim to hurt others, it’s a thought crime.

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