The Network of Restorative Practitioners in Mental Health

About the network

The purpose of this network is to bring communities together to promote mental well-being and recovery for people who have experienced harm as a result of the impact of mental illness.  Poor mental health takes a toll on those who suffer from it but the impact of poor mental health extends to people who are affected by the behaviour of someone with these difficulties, when they commit acts that cause harm to others, be they family, partners, friends, neighbours or members of the public.  It has long been the case that those who experience harm in this way, and those who cause harm as a result of their mental health difficulties, did not have access to the benefits that restorative justice can bring. 

Our guiding principle is that all people who have experienced harm in the context of mental health difficulties, should have access to restorative justice processes.  In order for this to happen, the mental health practitioner community, the criminal justice agencies and the restorative justice practitioner community, need to work together more effectively to understand what is needed and how this can be enabled.  This network is intended to be a platform to enable that dialogue. 

 

New Resources

International innovations in restorative justice in mental health – next steps for Australia

Contact between victims and offenders in forensic mental health settings: An exploratory study

Restorative practice in a forensic mental health service: three case studies

Entitlements and experiences of victims of mentally disordered offenders

The Psychology of Restorative Practice in Forensic Mental Health Recovery

VIEW ALL RESOURCES

 

Restorative Practice in a Forensic Mental Health Service

Dr Andy Cook

Forensic Healthcare, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Hellingly, UK

Toni evoked a range of strong responses from the staff team over a period of several years on the ward.  She was vulnerable, hard-working, good humoured, playful, spontaneously violent and also sometimes instrumentally violent.  She was often the subject of staff reflective practice; at times with a proportion of the team wanting to expel her back to prison or a more secure environment and the remainder of the team holding hope and wanting to nurture her.  She had suffered institutional deprivation as a child before being adopted.  She had quasi-autistic traits, in that she struggled to mentalise and had difficulties in social communication and relationships.  Her thinking was very concrete, so when she encountered novel or complex social situations arousing anxiety, she envisaged a palpable threat such as muggers or kidnappers and the prospect of attack.  When emotionally aroused she lashed out.  Other times there was an element of planning to her violence, but this always appeared to be in the context of a prolonged state of feeling unsafe and an overwhelming urge to gain a sense of control over her environment.  When in this aroused state, Toni’s thoughts centred on not appearing ‘weak’ to others.

Toni engaged in individual and group treatment with curiosity and motivation.  Her goal was to ‘be normal’.  She perceived herself to be different from peers in a variety of areas including her violence.  Initially she demonstrated very little reflection or remorse following violent acts.  If challenged she defended her actions.  Over time she progressed from this position, to expressing a desire to control her actions and to live without the need for violence.  She reflected upon the impact of her actions upon others and expressed remorse for harm she caused.  With support, she was able to give a rich account of how trust and human connection can be harmed and broken through violence. 

There was cautious hope and optimism when Toni moved to a ward of lower security. 

Unfortunately Toni’s progress had been fragile and the change of environment, relationships and routine all proved too much for her to tolerate without resorting initially to self-harm and then to violence.  With hindsight and exploration with Toni, we realised that a fast progression of her community leave in an area she did not know contributed to her sense of being unsafe.  Toni attempted to manage her feelings through self-harm but had not yet developed the relationships she needed to be able to talk about her fears.  She was ashamed about not coping.  She did not want to fail and be returned to the ward she had left.  Ironically, as things progressed and she did become violent, there was then an element of her deliberately engineering her return to a place where she felt safe.

READ THE FULL CASE STUDY

 

 The fifth and final installment of our series of short films in which Bethlem Museum of the Mind's Director traces Bethlem Royal Hospital's long and chequered history with reference to pots, jars and other ceramic objects.

Discover more about the history of Bethlem and mental health treatment 

www.museumofthemind.org.uk

 

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We are immensely grateful to the RJC for hosting this platform to facilitate communication through information sharing, the sharing of resources and problem-solving in order that all the agencies involved develop their capacity to support people in their struggle to recover from the impact of harm