For those who are unaware, Mercy Ministries is a residential-style program for girls suffering for a range of psychiatric illness who have recently descended into somewhat of a media storm. Over the last few days I have been taking an interest in allegations that Mercy Ministries treats patients without adequate recourse to properly qualified mental health practitioners and accepted treatments for such conditions. To get a more informed perspective I decided to ask my mother, who is a professionally qualified worker within the mental health profession. She has worked for a non-government organisation who work with the mentally ill, their relatives and their friends for the last ten years. Furthermore, she works with each of these types of individuals on a daily basis and is intimately acquainted with the residential-style programs in which Mercy Ministries specialise.
My mother told me that some aspects of the Mercy Ministries program criticised in the Herald articles are not at all atypical in like programs. It turns out, for instance that most similar programs would indeed kick somebody out of a program for an offence as seemingly trivial as smoking a cigarette, even if this had nothing to do with the reason you were in the program in the first place. However, other aspects of the Mercy Ministries program were not at all typical in equivalent programs and my mother assessed the impact of such treatment as being profoundly harmful. My mother also pointed out, as Luke commented earlier, that residential-style programs can indeed be beneficial for some patients, but will be entirely counterproductive and dangerous to others. Before entering such a program, it is of critical importance for an independent psychiatric assessment as to the viability of this particular treatment upon the patient.
Alright, so my assessment out of this? I would start by suggesting that it is worth giving Mercy Ministries the benefit of the doubt with respect to their motivations. Regardless of whether the motivations are sinister or honourable, it is the impact of the program upon the individual concerned that is the ultimately (and dare I say, only) consideration. Like Craig, I believe that there is much good that could potentially come from this program, and that it would be sad if a potentially good program were to shut down when resources are already scarce. This said, the mere potential of the program should not be enough for us to realise that there are elements within the program that could have catastrophic consequences for even one girl. I would suggest, therefore, that Mercy Ministries should not take any new patients until certain minimum requirements are met and that Mercy Ministries co-operates fully and transparently with authorities to ensure that this is indeed the case.