The history of mental health treatment in NSW, Australia and internationally, has been very difficult and sometimes traumatic. A legacy of inhumane practices, some of which continue today, has fostered a degree of mistrust between the psychiatry profession and mental health consumer advocates. This plays out in dichotomous rhetoric around a “medical model” of mental health, which posits the doctor as the central decision-maker, versus the person-centred notion of recovery – in which the individual seeks support and chooses from available services which may or may not include medical treatment. In fact, good medical practice is entirely compatible with a consumer-centred approach that honours the human rights of people who live with mental illness, and the Commission believes medical education should emphasise this.
Medical students need to be aware of the nuances of mental health recovery as a process led by the individual, and develop their own understanding of how they can use their medical skills – and sometimes medication – to support people with a mental illness, in a way that respects the person’s autonomy.
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