Joseph’s Story

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can severely affect a person’s experiences of reality.

Joseph had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was 19 years old. He had a supportive family and had been managing his illness well for 24 years. However, when a change in his care providers resulted in a lack of community support and follow-up, Joseph became overwhelmed and felt alone. His mental health deteriorated, and he began missing his medications.

One day, Joseph attended a local shopping centre. He had missed his medications and described feeling like a black cloud was hanging over his head. He approached an elderly man in the shopping centre and pushed him over. Joseph was charged with Aggravated Assault.

When Joseph first contacted Ruah Legal Services he felt overwhelmed. Joseph’s lawyer was able to explain the court process and outline his options. With Ruah Legal Service’s assistance, Joseph applied to the Magistrates Court START Court program.

The START Court is a specialised solution-focused court for accused persons like Joseph who experience mental illness.

It provides holistic support through a combination of mental health supports and services, complemented by regular check-in appearances before the Court. The START Court assisted Joseph with community mental health support and gave him the opportunity to participate in an anger and anxiety management course through a community psychologist. Joseph was also able to send a personal letter of apology to the victim of his offending through the supervision of the Court.

After 7 months of engaging with the START Court, Joseph graduated from the Court with a small ceremony and personal words of congratulations from the presiding Magistrate. Joseph received a fine of $1,000 which was suspended for 9 months. This meant that Joseph was not required pay the fine unless he committed an offence during the 9 month suspension period. In addition to resolving his legal matter, Joseph was able to quit smoking, re-build his confidence and re-engage with community mental health supports.

*Name changed to protect client privacy.

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We support thousands of people every year – ensuring vulnerable people, and particularly people experiencing mental illness or impacted by the trauma of family violence, receive high-quality advice, advocacy and legal representation.

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Read more about Ruah Legal Services and the Mental Health Law Centre in our annual reports. From 2020-21, we report on our operations as ‘One Ruah’ reflecting our merger with Ruah Community Services in 2019 and the expansion of our integrated legal and non-legal support to families.


RUAH 2022-23 Annual Report

RUAH 2021-22 Annual Report

RUAH 2020-21 Annual Report

MHLC 2019-20 Annual Report

MHLC 2018-19 Annual Report

MHLC 2017-18 Annual Report

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