Mental Health Diversion (s14/s32)

Veretis Legal Psychology is often engaged by lawyers acting for clients facing various local court matters. In a lot of these cases, the lawyer has not been aware of any significant mental health issues. which would have explained the client’s drug issues and the client had not disclosed any mental health difficulties. As a result, he was initially referred for a sentencing assessment report.

After obtaining the client’s history and current emotional experiences, it became apparent that he had experienced highly traumatic childhood experiences, being brought up in Afghanistan and raised in the midst of the Afghan Civil War throughout his childhood, and experiencing persecution until late adolescence. He also reported experiencing ongoing intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares of gruesome incidents he had witnessed throughout his youth, especially now that he was unable to use methamphetamine (Ice) or cannabis to “drown them out”. He also began to shiver the moment he was reminded of these memories, hyperventilate, and feel lightheaded. His extensive work history also suggested a level of avoidance, where he worked 7 days a week from 7am to 8pm rather than facing his traumatic memories. He stated that it had been worse, especially since his strict bail conditions restricted his access to drugs.

His drug use began the moment he landed in Australia in his adolescence as a refugee, which had continued into his adulthood and escalated from occasional cannabis use to smoking Ice on a daily basis. His drug use overtime had worsened to the extent that he began incurring a significant amount of debt with his dealer, which led to the offending behaviour.

Psychometric assessment indicated that he had significant trauma-related anxiety and fears, suicidal ideations, and significant drug abuse issues. All of which, confirmed the diagnoses of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and a Stimulant Use Disorder (methamphetamine). Afterwards, Veretis Legal Psychology quickly liaised with the lawyer about this significant mental health issue, to which the client then changed his instructions to proceed with a section 32 (now section 14) application.

Immediately after the assessment, he commenced intensive psychological intervention with Veretis Legal Psychology, where he was taught coping strategies to replace the drug use, and prolonged exposure therapy in order to systematically desensitise him from the traumatic memories. Over the course of 4 weeks until the date of the hearing date, he displayed an ability to manage his cravings and a sufficient understanding of his risks for relapse. He also was able to manage his triggers more effectively. The section 32 application was successful and he was ordered to continue therapy with Veretis Legal Psychology for the duration of the order. He no longer needed drugs to manage his trauma.