On the edge of justice: the legal needs of people with a mental illness in NSW
This study examines the legal and access to justice issues experienced by people with a mental illness. The methodology comprised a literature review, focus group discussions with key stakeholders, in-depth interviews with 81 legal and non-legal service providers, and 30 semi-structured interviews with people who have a mental illness. The report concluded that people with a mental illness experience a number of legal issues with potentially serious personal and financial consequences, and face many barriers in having these legal issues addressed....
Chapter 4. Barriers to accessing legal assistance
I don’t think that a person with chronic depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or drug and alcohol issues has the capacity to seek out help.1
As discussed in the previous chapter, people with a mental illness face particular legal issues, including those relating to the Mental Health Act 1990 (NSW), discrimination, housing, social security, debt and consumer issues. Legal issues concerning family law, domestic violence, victims of crime, and care and protection were also raised in consultations, and are supported by the literature.
This chapter will look at the barriers faced by people with a mental illness in accessing legal assistance.2 For the purpose of this report, the term ‘legal assistance’ includes the provision of legal information, legal advice and legal assistance (see Appendix 7 for definitions of each of these).
Consultations for this study revealed that people with a mental illness experience both individual and systemic barriers to accessing legal services. The first part of this chapter will look at the individual barriers that people with a mental illness confront in accessing and using legal services, while the second part will discuss the systemic barriers to accessing legal services. This chapter will also consider the ways in which access to legal assistance for people with a mental illness can be improved.