This article originally appeared on the ABC website and can be viewed here.
The peak body for mental health professionals has issued a warning on the potential dangers of faith-based cures for mental health problems.
The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed allegations of incorrect treatment of several troubled young women by the Christian group, Mercy Ministries, which is linked to the Hillsong Church.
On its website, Mercy Ministries claims to treat women aged 16 to 28 years old by “providing homes and care for young women suffering the effects of eating disorders, self harm, abuse, depression, unplanned pregnancies and other life controlling issues.”
But three former patients told the Herald that the programs involved “emotionally cruel and medically unproven techniques”, such as exorcisms and “separation contracts” between friends.
The girls reportedly left the Mercy centre suicidal, after being told they were possessed by demons.
The newspaper report also claims Mercy Ministries received the women’s Centrelink payments during their residential stay.
Mental Health Council of Australia spokesman Simon Tatz says it is important people receive treatment that is evidence-based, for instance psychiatry and certain drug treatments.
“It’s about getting people into treatments that are proven to work,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Federal Human Resources Minister Joe Ludwig says the allegations regarding Centrelink are being investigated.
Meanwhile, coffee chain Gloria Jean’s says it will continue its sponsorship and fundraising of the Mercy Ministries program.
A spokeswoman says the company was told the allegations were unfounded.