Annual Conference

TheMHS 2014 S006: Forensic Mental Health – Catherine House

By August 27, 2014 No Comments

The topic of Forensic Mental Health was split into three talks, all of them focused on improving the mental health of forensic consumers after their release from prison. You can read the abstract here.

This blog post is focused on the right of forensic clients to a contributing life and the work of Catherine House that provides housing to single, homeless women in South Australia. On average, 48 women stay with them each night.

Catherine House also offers an extensive recovery program that takes in referrals from the forensic system. These are women who have committed serious offences and been found not responsible for their actions due to mental illness. Each consumer is housed on average for two years.

The eventual goal of the program is for these women to progress from living in a shared house with others, transitioning to living independently with support from the program, to finally being reintegrated into society. The three areas of focus are to help restore personal relationships, overcome social stigma associated with the consumer’s experiences, and to give them a sense of personal control over their own lives and futures.

The consumers are encouraged to explore different viewpoints to develop greater personal insight, practice social skills and build resilience. The care team model positive behaviour and encourage the consumers to reflect this. They are allowed to make their own decisions with regard to house activities and attending the education program provided by the house.

Each consumer has access to a full care team of recovery-focused staff to provide support whenever required. However the focus is on a coaching technique that gives responsibility to the consumers for their own decisions. This method gives them a sense of empowerment which is beneficial to recovery.

Since the program started, eight women have progressed through it successfully. Although this may not seem like many, the program has a huge positive impact on the lives of these women. The positive impact continues through to their friends, family, and communities after leaving the program. 

You can find out more about Catherine House here.

Post by Jeremy Hancock and Ashley Pelton