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Informed by Compassion

Humanity and mental health care have not always co-existed with distressing abuse perpetrated against already vulnerable people. These have ranged from incarceration and isolation to debilitating medication and psychosurgery. Some of the most disturbing symptoms with which clients present were once understood as possession or madness and treated accordingly. We now know that those who have experienced repeated trauma most notably childhood sexual abuse, present with a range of symptoms; changes to affect and mood and mood regulation with suicidal ideation and  self-harm, changes to consciousness with intrusive memories  or no memories, nightmares and dissociation, changes to self-view including shame, guilt, self-blame and sense of defilement, changes to relationship with withdrawal and lack of trust and changes to ‘systems of meaning’ including hope. (Benjamin, R. Introduction) Even the most competent practitioner may find themselves overwhelmed and helpless in the face of such suffering and it is unsurprising that interventions which distance and appear objective become attractive.

Humanising the Mental Health Care System in Australia edited by Benjamin, Haliburn and King is an antidote as it draws together the work of experts from a range of fields and disciplines. Each were asked to write a chapter beginning with first principles and to incorporate more complex notions making it is easily accessible to practitioners at every level. The book is arranged in four sections beginning with theory, next to the effects of abuse and trauma on different populations, the third explores individual treatment approaches while the last addresses organisational approaches.

Professionally researched, accessible and compassionate, this book gives heart as well as mind to work with those most vulnerable clients and the systems in which they present.


Benjamin, R., Haliburn, J. and King, S. (eds) 2019. Humanising Mental health Care in Australia, Routledge, London

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