QPILCH Mental Health Collaboration Project.
BEST PRACTICE GUIDELINES
These guidelines are for lawyers assisting clients with mental illness. They cover:
- mental health basics
- understanding a recovery framework
- collaborating for better health outcomes
- facilitating effective communication
Video 1 – Mental Illness Overview
This video provides a brief outline of what is: mental illness, psychosis, schizophrenia, and mood disorders. It discusses the stigma surrounding mental illness, and tips for lawyers including the nature of mental illness being episodic and fluctuating capacity.
Video 2 – Key skills for lawyers assisting clients with mental illness
This video outlines the key skills lawyers need to consider when assisting a client with mental illness. It discusses the importance of seeing clients as individuals, not viewing clients through the lens of mental illness, building trust and rapport, as well as the importance of language and communication style. The video encourages lawyers to adopt a strengths based recovery oriented approach to empower the client to manage their own well-being.
Video 3 – Collaborating to assist clients with mental illness
Clients experiencing mental health concerns often have multiple, complex and compounding issues – legal and non-legal. This video highlights the importance of collaborating to enable a holistic client-centred approach, and shares insight into a health justice partnership and what lawyers can do when collaborating to best assist this client group.
Video 4 – Interviewing clients with mental illness
This video provides practice tips for lawyers when interviewing clients with mental illness. Importantly it highlights the importance of lawyers allowing extra time for interview, and understanding how the client’s diagnoses, medications and side effects may impact upon the client interview and capacity. It also discusses the involvement of families/carers.
Video 5 – Maria, Robert and Theo talk about living with mental illness*
This video provides an insight into three individuals impacted by mental illness (MI). Maria was diagnosed with schizophrenia and offers insights into living with MI. Robert has lived with MI for a long time and discusses the difficulties with medications, as well as stigma. Theo shares his insight into what it was like to be put on an ITO after living for 16 years without relapse. The clients share their thoughts on how lawyers can best assist individuals living with MI who need help with their issues – legal and non-legal.
Video 6 – Guidelines and Training Package
Roadshow presentations were delivered to community legal centre / legal assistance service colleagues in Cairns. Townsville and Sunshine Coast in November 2016. When viewing video 6, please refer to the webinar presentation slides. For webinar resources, please refer to CLCQ webpage
Lawyers are among one of professions with highest rates of anxiety, depression and suicide. It is important that lawyers pay attention to their own well-being. Where possible use reflective practice and confidentially debrief to avoid the negative impacts of difficult and confronting situations and/or clients.
Some resources that are useful to the well-being of lawyers include:
Queensland Law Society, ‘love law, live life’ (webpage)http://www.qls.com.au/For_the_profession/Love_Law_Live_LifeIncludes link to TJMF Psychological Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession
Legal Workplace Well-Being – TJMP Guidelines: The 13 Workplace Factorshttp://www.tjmf.org.au/the-guidelines/the-13-workplace-factors/
Mental Health in the workplace – a practical guidehttps://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/2010-workers-mental-illness-practical-guide-managers/1-mental-health-workplace
Other useful links and resources
Specialist Mental Health Legal Services in Queensland
QPILCH: Mental Health Law Practice – www.qpilch.org.au/cms/page.asp?id=61129
The Mental Health Law Practice (MHLP) assists people with mental health law issues and civil law problems that arise as a consequence of mental ill-health. Clients with mental illness may be eligible for services including mental health law advice, involuntary treatment orders (ITO), advocacy service, and/or general civil law help.
Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI): Mental Health Legal Service – www.qai.org.au/
The Mental Health Legal Service (MHLS) offers individual legal advice, advocacy and casework services for people who have matters before the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) or matters with potential to come before the MHRT including ITOs, forensic orders, fitness for trial reviews, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
The following listing is not comprehensive but a guide for Queensland lawyers to existing key resources that may assist when helping this client group.
ADA Australia – https://adaaustralia.com.au/education/advocacy-education/
Aged and disability advocacy service who provides in-house education and training options for staff assisting clients with mental illness.
Blue Knot Foundation – www.blueknot.org.au/what-we-do/for-legal-and-justice-practitioners
Information for legal professionals about trauma-informed practice, and information about in-house education and training options for staff assisting clients with mental illness.
The Queensland Handbook for Practitioners on Legal Capacity – A joint initiative between QAI and Allens Linklaters. Also endorsed by and available on the Queensland Law Society website.
CLC Queensland - communitylegalqld.org.au
Community Legal Centres Queensland provides support and advocacy for 33 independent, community-led community legal centres operating across Queensland.
CLC Queensland communitylegalqld.org.au/clc-staff/staff-development/webinars/ethical-dilemmas-lawyers-and-social-workers-working-together-multidisciplinary-service - Ethical dilemmas of lawyers and social workers working together in a multidisciplinary service
This webinar examined these issues in the context of vulnerable clients accessing knowmore Legal Service; and the implications for practice when lawyers and social workers collaborate as part of a multidisciplinary service.
Health Justice Australia – www.healthjustice.org.au
In Australia many people on low incomes have 3 or more legal problems in a year. Research suggests people are likely to talk about with a trusted health professional than a lawyer. Health justice partnerships (HJP) aim to provide access to legal help in health settings through collaborations that improve health and justice for everyone.
Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) – www.legalaid.qld.gov.au
Legal Health Check (LHC) – webpage and online video resources legalhealthcheck.org.au/legalhealthcheck/
The LHC website trains and supports community workers to assist vulnerable clients with many legal problems which impact their lives. The Legal Health Check is a tool that helps to identify the legal needs of clients. Four training videos exist to explain how to use the tool, as well as encouraging collaboration with community lawyers in an effort to resolve problems identified.
Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) – www.mhrt.qld.gov.au
The MHRT is an independent statutory body established under Queensland legislation whose primary purpose is to review the involuntary status of persons with mental illnesses. The Tribunal consists of the President and other members, including lawyers, psychiatrists and other persons with relevant qualifications and/or experience.
Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland (MIFQ) – www.mifq.org.au
MIFQ provides specialised programs and services across metropolitan, regional and rural Queensland for people living with mental illness, and their families and carers. MIFQ support recovery and their team applies an empowerment approach to support.
Rights in Action (North Queensland) – www.rightsinaction.org/
Rights in Action is a non-profit, community based organisation that provides strong independent advocacy for people with disabilities who are in vulnerable situations.Rights in Action provides advocacy assistance to people with disabilities who live in Cairns, Yarrabah, Mareeba and Atherton.
TASC National Limited (“TASC”) – www.tascnational.org.au/
Legal services and advocacy for regional, rural and remote South-West Queensland. TASC provides a range of free services to the vulnerable and marginalised members of the community – people who are at risk, people who have disabilities (physical and/or intellectual), people who have mental illness, and people who might not otherwise have a voice in the community.