Friday, March 7, 2008

Mercy?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on allegations of abuse by Mercy Ministries, a Christian organisation associated with the evangelical (read fundamentalist) Hillsong Church, that purports to treat young women living with a mental health or eating disorder.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bullemia, are serious health concerns that can lead to a number of further consequences to one's health, and even death. It is not an issue that is to be taken lightly. Medical care, including psychological care, is paramount in treating and recovering from such disorders.

The allegations of abuse by women who have attended the Mercy Ministries programme are disturbing. These claims include Bible Study, prayer, exorcisms, separation (i.e., no physical contact allowed between friends) and harsh punishments for breaking the rules. It's alleged that residents in the programme are required to sign over Centrelink benefits they may be in receipt of to the organisation, as well as the organisation claiming a Carer Benefit for each resident. There is no qualified psychiatric care, and medical care consists of an occasional visit to a GP that is monitored by a representative from Mercy Ministries.

The result of this supposed care: women emerging in worse shape than they went in, requiring urgent and greater intervention and care, having to deal with not only the issue they sought help for, but also the trauma of their supposed care.

That such abuse and mistreatment could occur is abominable. Just what are the requirements of establishing and operating a care facility such as Mercy Ministries? What oversight is there by the Health Department?

I am angry.

For more information about eating disorders, visit the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria website.

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