‘If it wasn’t for you guys, I would not be here’ — Cinamin praises specialist court staff
Cinamin Lovell was in a bad space before she got the emotional help she needed.
After admitting two assaults and the use of threatening words, Ms Lovell, who was 24 years old at the time, was at risk of being fined or even jailed.
But thanks to the Mental Health Treatment Court programme, which was started shortly after her 2015 conviction, Ms Lovell began the challenging road of getting treatment for her anger problems.
Now, six years later, she has had a happy and productive life as a cook — with two budding food businesses to boot.
Ms Lovell, who graduated from the programme five years ago, said: “After turning my dreams into a reality I’ve become a lot happier.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I would not be here.”
Ms Lovell was speaking last week during the programme’s annual Thanksgiving court sitting.
The session, which signified the programme’s final sitting for the year, saw Mental Health Treatment Court participants in attendance, besides programme staff, graduates of the programme and Government ministers.
Another graduate of the programme, Sharika DeSilva, called treatment staff “life-changers” after they helped her through her addiction problems.
Ms DeSilva, 34, explained that she went through the programme in 2018 after she admitted an assault on a woman.
She said that the programme helped her to recognise and overcome the root of her substance abuse. She has been sober since leaving the programme last year.
Ms DeSilva added: “When something’s wrong with your mind it’s like having a broken leg or a disease.
“But when it comes to this court, I feel like we’re being recognised for the things that people take for granted sometimes.
“When you realise that everyone has something that they go through, you’re able to better cope with life.”
Ms DeSilva said that she now volunteers at the youth outreach programme Mirrors as a receptionist and hopes to one day work there full time.
She also told those in the programme who struggled with addiction: “Being sober is a life-changing experience.
“When you smoke or when you do drugs, you don’t realise how much it affects you until you stop.”
The court offers offenders with mental health problems an opportunity to tackle the challenges that led to their crimes instead of being fined or sent to prison.
They must participate in weekly meetings and participate in other programmes or risk being removed from the treatment court and being sentenced in Magistrates’ Court.
It is one of several courts, alongside the Drug Treatment Court and DUI Court, that offers long-term treatment to prevent similar offences from happening.
Magistrate Maxanne Anderson, who oversees the Mental Health Treatment Court, congratulated participants for their commitment to the programme.
She added: “No one is exempt from the direct or indirect impact of mental health challenges.”
Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe echoed Ms Anderson’s words, adding: “Mental health court has genuinely conveyed to clients that they don’t have to struggle in silence, that we will give them refuge and solace in times of distress, and the silver lining that they yearn for and deserve can be achieved.”
He said that prison populations had been halved over the past five years because of the treatment court.
Mr Wolffe added that much of this had happened thanks to the “Herculean efforts” of the clients and staff.
He commended the participants for their “profoundly inspirational” courage during their treatment.
Mr Wolffe also honoured the staff who worked within the programme, calling them “the unsung heroes”.
He added: “Words cannot fully describe the depths of your commitment and your dedication to these mental health court clients.
“You tirelessly and repeatedly go beyond the call of duty — often working ungodly hours to ensure that the needs of mental health court clients are properly met.
“Without your awesome, awesome efforts, I am sure and certain that mental health court would not be as accessible as it is.”
Tinee Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, offered her congratulations to those who were participating in the programme, as well as those who graduated.
She added: “Hang in there — I know every one of you will continue to do well.”