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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Whitney Dwyer

Whitney Dwyer

Whitney has had numerous contacts with the mental health and criminal justice systems. When she heard about the Assessment and Referral Court (ARC), she asked her lawyer if she would be suitable.

my lawyer got me to see a professional psychologist … [who] diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder and severe depression, among other things, which got me into the program.

Whitney says her experience with ARC was very positive and she does not think she would be where she is today if she had not had this experience.

I was skating on thin ice but the Judge kept giving me chances. She saw a lot more than I saw in myself, and she believed in me.

ARC offered me a second chance at life. They were very patient—I wouldn’t even be that patient with me! They don’t look down on you, they sit at your level.

Whitney said it is critical that services care about their clients.

You need someone who is not going to give up on you.

when I got out of prison, even though I went straight back down the same old road, my housing worker really cared about me. … Usually if you don’t engage with workers, they close your case, but she didn’t even though she didn’t hear from me for ages. The next minute she was rocking up at my shared accommodation door with a bag and she was like ‘I just wanted to check how you are’. I honestly started crying and I gave her a hug and I felt like ‘wow, she actually cares’.

It has taken time for Whitney to find the mental health services and practitioners that work well for her.

At her current mental health service, Whitney is able to decide which services to access at her own pace. With these supports, she is now positive about the future.

After seeing a psychologist for two years, I have learnt to open up and respect everything. It’s been a long journey, but if I didn’t go through all that I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Whitney said the most important factor for a successful future mental health and wellbeing system is a passionate and caring workforce.

Source: Witness Statement of Whitney Dwyer, 12 June 2020; Whitney Dwyer meeting with Commissioner Cockram, July 2020.