The current position on forensic mental health issues when it comes to legislation and policies is a strong one, but there are some difficulties that do not translate well into the probation and parole policies that are currently offered. In other words, there are issues that are not being addressed, and that are allowing individuals with mental health problems who on are probation and parole to slip through the cracks and struggle with their issues on their own (Wang, et al., 2005). Not only are they not getting the help they need in order to live productive lives, they are also more likely to reoffend, violate their probation or parole, become homeless, drink to excess, do drugs, and get involved in other unsavory behavior (Patel & Prince, 2002). The high proportion of indigenous offenders is one of the biggest issues that indicates mental health legislation is not working in the way that it really should to protect the population who are on probation and parole (Australian, 2012). While it is important to get help to the people in the big cities and smaller towns, there are a number of more rural, indigenous people who are falling through the cracks (Australian, 2012).
Another concern for those who have mental health issues in Australia is that these issues are often tied to many other problems, like domestic violence and criminal behavior, but only arrests are made for the behaviors, placing the people on probation and parole (Australian, 2012). It is not that people should not be arrested for this kind of behavior, but that -- if mental health problems are the cause -- they should also be treated for the mental health issues they are facing (Demyttenaere, et al., 2004). That can help them avoid improper behavior in the future, and make them more productive members of society. It is not the mental health issues of indigenous people and others that is the problem. Instead, it is the way in which these problems are glossed over by legislation and law enforcement, so that the people who really need assistance cannot get anyone to help them in the right way (Australian, 2012). Just putting them on probation or parole is not the answer.
Current policies and procedures that are in place for those who may be suicidal or who may harm themselves while they are on probation and parole are important, but they do not go far enough. It makes sense to protect people from themselves if there is an indication that they may become distraught or confused and hurt themselves (Richards, Campania, & Muse-Burke, 2010). Many people who take their own lives or who harm themselves do so because they do not realize that they are putting themselves at that level of risk (Wang, et al., 2005). This can also happen because they think self-harm is a good idea, or they cannot see any way out of their current situation other than suicide. If they were mentally healthy, though, they may realize that the way they are looking at things is not realistic, and that they could be better served by getting healthy so they could take care of themselves (Storrie, Ahern, & Tuckett, 2010). If they are not offered the resources they need through their probation or parole officer, though, and the policies and legislation created do not take care of them properly, they may not be able to help themselves and find ways to improve. That is not their fault, but a failing of the system itself.
That is not to say that there is not plenty of mental health care available in Australia, but only that the availability of care does not necessarily equal good care, or care that is designed for the people who need it most. When a person on probation or parole needs proper mental health care, he or she may or may not realize that it is even needed. If it is not adequately realized, then there need to be legislative requirements that can force the person needing the care to get that care so he or she is not a danger to himself or herself, or a danger to other people (Keyes, 2002). By taking that into consideration, it is possible to make changes to the Australian mental health care system that will address policies and legislation that can and should be adjusted for those on probation and parole. While not the perfect solution, there are no perfect options when it comes to mental health concerns (Munce, et al., 2007). Each person is different in how he or she will react to mental health treatment, and there may also be people who avoid it even if they really need it and even if they are ordered to have it (Patel & Prince, 2002). The same is true in other countries, so it is not a problem that is indigenous to one country or another.
Analysis of the Problem
Addressing the problem and stating the issue is important, but it does not adequately analyze the problem. There is much more to figuring out a course of action than simply stating that there is a problem that should be dealt with. There is a problem, and it should be dealt with, but the problem is actually several issues woven together. That is often the case with mental illness, and not something that can easily be corrected. As such, it is necessary to look at the mental health problems of those on probation and parole separately, and then consider how they all come together to create one large, legislative issue in need of addressing. Australia provides help for a number of mental health concerns (Australian, 2012). However, mental health is "tricky" in that there is often more to the issue than what is initially seen (Patel & Prince, 2002; Richards, Campania, & Muse-Burke, 2010). Because it can be difficult to truly pinpoint exactly what the problem is, legislation can allow for a number of people who struggle with various aspects of mental health to simply slip through the cracks.
A High Proportion of Indigenous Offenders
Among the serious issues that Australia faces is a high proportion of indigenous offenders on probation and parole. These are native people who generally do not live their lives in the same kind of way that a person who lives in a more metropolitan area would (Australian, 2012). That is not to say that all indigenous people live in rural environments, but that is the case for many of them. They have different ideals and beliefs, and when that is seen there are concerns that these individuals are not going to accept the local laws and legislative decisions as being something they have to follow, even if they are on probation or parole (Australian, 2012). This can become a serious issue for mental health treatment, and there is another part to the problem. Indigenous people tend to stick together and protect one another, meaning they may shelter those on probation and parole, or not report activity that needs help or that would otherwise be deemed unacceptable (Australian, 2012). When groups of people work together to shelter and protect someone with mental health issues, it can actually harm that person and keep him or her from getting proper treatment (Storrie, Ahern, & Tuckett, 2010).
Untreated Mental Health Issues
The most significant problem with mental health issues is how many of them are untreated (Wang, et al., 2005). It is possible to pass a large amount of legislation on mental health, but if the people who need the help are not getting it, no amount of legislation will matter. When laws are passed to help people on probation and parole, they only help those who either seek out that help or who are brought in so they can get help (Munce, et al., 2007). Others continue to fall through the cracks, because they are not enough of a danger to themselves or others to be forcibly treated, and they do not seek out the help on their own -- often because they do not believe that anything is wrong with them that would require them to get treatment (Demyttenaere, et al., 2004). This is not a problem that occurs just in Australia, but one that happens throughout the world. Even people who have committed crimes or who have been previously treated for mental health issues can fall through the cracks, and there are often not enough people to monitor them and make sure they are taking care of themselves.
Domestic violence is a big issue that often ties into mental health concerns (Storrie, Ahern, & Tuckett, 2010). It is also a frequent reason for a person to end up on probation or parole. There are two ways in which this happens. First, people who have mental health issues can be more likely to be abusive to spouses, children, and others they are close to, such as…