Forensic Mental Health

Graduate Testimonials

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Awarded the Inaugural David Greenberg Prize in Forensic Mental Health and 2016 Ambassador of the Forensic Mental Health Program.

The Master of Forensic Mental Health at UNSW Australia fulfilled the formal education requirement of my Advanced Training in Forensic Psychiatry. The course content was extremely relevant to my day to day clinical work. The lectures and reading were easy to access and the flexible delivery allowed me to fit in coursework between other commitments. I enjoyed the online discussions with other students from different professional backgrounds and across Australia, and the Online Tutors were very helpful indeed. 

Highlights of the Program included the interesting and relevant course content; as well as the informative and clearly explained lectures. Lectures were given by practising forensic clinicians, legal practitioners and other experts. There was a focus on evidence-based practice, including a detailed approach to violence risk assessment. I particularly enjoyed the choice of fascinating forensic subspecialty electives. The Master of Forensic Mental Health has improved my confidence in applying for specialised forensic psychiatric jobs and has added value to my skills in both forensic and generalist psychiatry.

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I am currently working with Corrective Services NSW in a custodial role as an Assistant Superintendent at Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre. I currently work in all areas of the centre managing offenders of all classifications, including offenders who are mentally disordered.

When I commenced the MFMH I was working at Long Bay Hospital Correctional Centre, managing Forensic and Correctional Patients. The course provided me with a greater understanding of mental health legislation; mental health disorders, and a good understanding of the various disciplines within the Criminal Justice System that manage the care of offenders who are diagnosed with a mental disorder. The course material has allowed me to not only better manage offenders who are mentally disordered but to have a greater understanding of what presentations are common with each different diagnoses. I envisage the program will assist me throughout my career with CSNSW given there is a high percentage of offenders entering the criminal justice system who are mentally ill or may develop a mental illness whilst incarcerated.

I found the program material very interesting and really enjoyed the learning atmosphere provided by UNSW. Although I am not in a clinical role within corrections I found the program provided me with the knowledge to greater understand how the forensic mental health system works. The course allowed me to build a stronger working relationship with mental health clinicians who were also very supportive during my 2.5 years of studies. The program also allowed me to build a strong network, including some excellent friendships.

Not coming from a clinical background and having to learn a “whole different language” was one of my major challenges. However, these challenges were overcome with excellent support from lecturers and fellow students. I found balancing fulltime work and part-time studies a little challenging at times, however, as time passed this challenge became a little easier.

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I am currently appointed by the NSW Minister for Health as an Official Visitor under the NSW Mental Health Act 2007. The function of Official Visitor is to independently advocate, aiming to ensure the safe custody of those controlled under mental health legislation, and that their interests are protected while thus controlled. Detention under the NSW Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 No 10 is particularly complex. I therefore determined to undertake the best education available in the field of forensic mental health.

The MFMH exceeded my high expectations by building a bridge between curiosity and understanding. It enhanced my ability negotiate a patient’s journey through the forensic network, consolidated my skill in psychiatric research, and provided a bed-rock for the understanding of mental health legislation and its interaction with the criminal justice system.

I enjoyed everything about the MFMH program because the content was so relevant to my aim. The course material is intellectually challenging and the electives are fascinating. The lecturers are approachable, and there is the opportunity to build an excellent reference library. The best part of the course however, was my fellow students. They were a limitless source of support, information and entertainment. Over the 2 year course I built not only professional links, but friendships.

Although I am confident and experienced in research, my main challenge throughout the MFMH was entering the program without clinical expertise. This made some assignments very difficult. The smaller assessment tasks could be time-consuming, however they were very worthwhile. The MFMH taught me the nature of excellence in forensic mental health is ongoing commitment to education.

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I am employed as an Area Manager with Mission Australia covering Upper Hunter and Western NSW. I manage a diverse portfolio including a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation service for young offenders, a crisis accommodation service and case management service for young offenders who are considered to be a medium or high risk of recidivism, gambling help counselling services and mental health rehabilitation services.

I have always had an interest in offender rehabilitation – starting from my undergraduate training. I was at a time in my life and career where I wanted to develop a speciality in this area, and utilise innovative, evidence based practice models in the programs I managed. I spent a significant amount of time searching for a University that would provide high quality training in this specialist area – but also in a flexible environment as I lived Western NSW and attending campus regularly was not possible.

I found the Masters of Forensic Mental Health program was delivered by one of the most highly regarded Universities in Australia, and course content was facilitated by world experts in the field. The flexible delivery of the program meant I had the same opportunities at learning as metro-based students, which is important for rural practitioners.

What I enjoyed about the program was there are a wide variety of courses on offer so you can build your own degree to make it relevant for your professional experience. The content is delivered in an applied and relevant way, allowing students to reflect on their own work to date, but also use the training in your daily work. The online discussion forums ensure that the learning environment is participatory, and students can also learn from each other’s experiences as well as the formal course content.

The program provides students with a wide variety of contexts in the field in which we work, including training in mental health law and legislation, mental health systems, and also patient focussed work. Oddly enough, assessment tasks are enjoyable, as they require you to apply your understanding of course concepts to your working experience – as opposed to regurgitating lecture content.

The lecturers are experts in their field and the deliver the content in an interesting, and well thought out way.

I would encourage any prospective student with an interest in the area to apply for the program. The learning opportunities this course presents in both law and mental health allows for well rounded, quality postgraduate training.

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I am an Occupational Therapist at the Macquarie Unit (Orange) a medium secure forensic mental health unit.

I enrolled in the Masters of Forensic Mental Health to increase my knowledge and confidence in this unique and often controversial area of mental health practice. While I had worked in various clinical areas and in mental health prior to the forensic unit, I had not the appreciation of how the legal, ethical and risk issues intersected so much with psychiatric treatment. I was also very well supported by my managers, colleagues, the Western NSW LHD (Mental Health Drug & Alcohol Services), and the Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network – without this it would have been a much greater challenge.

The learning resources and lectures provide up to date insights into forensic mental health practice and I found that really interesting, as it was so applicable to situations at work. I have valued the experience as it has been a way in which I can improve my contributions on the unit as a colleague and practitioner, and will hopefully continue to do so! Being able to build up a network of professional contacts with such experience and knowledge in their specialist areas has been very beneficial, and the contributions of peers in the course enhances the learning experience further.

While the commitment in time and energy is significant, it is very rewarding, especially considering the topics and application of the course to work is very relevant.

I would suggest that new students make the most of the opportunities you have to read, learn and get involved… and a great collection of ‘music to study to’ was very helpful at times!