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28th International Conference on Psychiatry & Mental Health

Melbourne, Australia

Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan

Executive Director at Relationships Australia Western Australia

Title: If you continue to raise your voice, we will have to ask you to leave! Whatever happened to compassion in mental health care?


Biography: Michael Sheehan


Despite the belief that compassion is at the essence of caring and the heart of practitioner-client relationships, it is no longer a common feature of mental health care discourse. Moreover, there continues to be a gaping imbalance of power in mental health services evidenced by a lack of tolerance for ‘difference’ and the imperative to deal decisively with ‘problematic’ clients. This is a result of societal concerns and priorities around the need to control risk and uncertainty and an emphasis on rationalisation of services and evidence-based practice. In this paper, I discuss how globalisation and our current political climate have led to a lack of compassion that has developed in mental health practice. I argue for the need to reintroduce and support compassionate care where it can thrive and is expected. Only through the eyes of compassion can we truly understand a person who is grappling with despair, persecuted by voices, or a prisoner of their fears, and assist them on their journey to recovery.