It may feel difficult to understand what exactly it means when your loved one or a member of their treating team tells you they have a mental health condition.

This video series aims to give you some basic information around different common mental health conditions that we see in custody to help you understand what they mean, what your loved one might be experiencing and how you can help or get involved.

The Mental Health Helpline

In this video, Clinical Nurse Educator, Anthony talks about the Mental Health Helpline, which is available to patients and their loved ones.

Key points from the video:

  • The Mental Health Helpline is available 24 hours a day and is operated by trained Mental Health Nurses.
  • The Helpline can support you with information, referral and advice regarding your loved one in custody.
  • The Helpline has been set up to provide support to those in custody, their relatives, Corrective Services as well Health and Legal services.
  • When calling the Mental Health Helpline the Nurse answering the phone will ask you for your name, the name of the person you are calling about, their MIN, the centre where they are located and what we can do to assist.
  • We can take immediate action if you raise concerns around the wellbeing and safety of your loved one if there is a suicide or self-harm risk.
  • We can’t always provide the level of detail you would like unless your loved one has signed a consent to liaise form which means we can provide details around their health and the care they are receiving.
  • If we don’t have this form, we can still listen and make note of your concerns.
  • The Mental Health Helpline number is 1800 222 472.
  • We take all matters seriously and encourage you to call this number if you have any concerns about your loved one.


In this video forensic psychiatrist, Dr Sarah-Jane Spencer, describes the symptoms and treatments available for schizophrenia and what you can do to support your loved one who may have been diagnosed with it.

Key points from the video:

  • There are a number of symptoms for schizophrenia including delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking.
  • When your loved one is experiencing a psychotic episode it means they have a different sense of reality than others.
  • Delusions are fixed false beliefs, often they feel people may be poisoning them, following them or that they are being targeted by an agency or group of people.
  • Hallucinations can occur in each of our senses but most often patients experience auditory hallucinations meaning they hear something that no one else does. It is very real to them.
  • Drug-induced psychosis can occur when people use cannabis or ice and experience a psychotic episode.
  • Symptoms can differ between people.
  • Your loved one with schizophrenia may misinterpret things or believe they are getting messages from things like number plates, TV shows or signs.
  • Negative symptoms can include reduced motivation, energy and a lack of self-care like showering or washing their clothes. These things may be more obvious to you.  
  • There are a number of treatment options available to your loved one including medication and talking therapies.
  • Antipsychotic medications can come in oral or injection form. Each type of antipsychotic can have a different side effect and so often the treating team will try a few to see what the best fit is for your loved one.
  • A benefit of the injection, more commonly referred to as a depot is that it releases slowly into the system and many patients see benefits from taking it in this form.
  • It is important for you to acknowledge that it may not always be easy to support your loved one so you need to be kind to yourself.
  • You may find it easier to ‘agree that you are going to disagree’ at times and avoiding challenging their beliefs may help you avoid having a strained relationship.
  • Try to find common ground on what you both enjoy and agree on.
  • Support them and encourage them to take their medication but remember that it is ok if you need to take a break from contacting them, especially if they have some delusional beliefs about you or a family member. When that happens, the treating team can step in and you can recommence the relationship when their symptoms have improved.
  • Make sure you have some support of your own.



In this video, Mental Health Clinical Nurse Educator, Anthony talks about the symptoms and treatments available for anxiety.

Key points from the video:

  • An anxiety disorder occurs when feelings of anxiety get so bad that it starts to affect day to day life.
  • Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be physical or psychological.
  • Physical symptoms might include difficulty breathing and chest tightness.
  • Psychological symptoms can include ongoing worry, anxiousness, racing thoughts and even anger.
  • Treatment options can include talking to a psychiatrist to see if medication may be appropriate and diversional activities such as deep breathing, mindfulness and other distractions.
  • If your loved one is experiencing anxiety that is interfering with their day to day life, they can call the Mental Health Helpline:1800 222 472.


Personality Disorders

In this video, forensic psychiatrist, Dr Sarah-Jane Spencer talks about personality disorders.

Key points from the video:

  • Everyone has a personality and our personality guides how we interact with other people, how we think and behave.
  • For those with a personality disorder, interacting with the world and other people is dysfunctional, which can make their life and their family’s difficult.
  • There are many different types of personality disorders and they impact people quite differently.
  • Borderline personality disorder is one of the more common personality disorders seen in custody. It can make people quite impulsive, they may experience mood swings and difficulty managing their emotions and behaviour. In many cases, they may turn to harming themselves which can be distressing for them, as well as their loved ones.
  • Treatment for personality disorders is mostly done by psychology rather than medication.


The Aged Care Unit

In this video, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cindy talks about the Aged Care Unit and how care is provided for older patients in custody.

Key points from the video:

  • The Aged Care Unit is located in the Long Bay Hospital, some patients with lower care needs can be located around the centres across the state.
  • Often our first priority is ensuring the sensory needs of the patient are met as they may not come in with their glasses or hearing aids, which can make communication difficult.
  • From a mental health perspective, if someone needs intense assessment they may be moved to the Aged Care Unit temporarily or if they have been identified as particularly vulnerable, they may be moved there for longer.
  • For older patients in regional centres, they can be seen by audiovisual link or face to face as members of the Mental Health Aged Care Unit work closely with Primary Health teams across the state.
  • Symptoms of poor mental health may differ between younger and older patients. Generally we look for low mood, tearfulness, poor sleep, poor appetite, withdrawal and in older patients we are also mindful to consider pain and increased physical problems as an indicator that their mental health needs help.
  • Overall the Aged Care Unit looks at the physical, emotional and spiritual journey of the patient and taking a whole person approach.
  • It can be confusing for loved ones to know what is happening with their loved one but where consent and legalities allow, we will share with you how your loved one is going and the care they are receiving.