- Brief History of Our Son (new)
- Mother’s Story – I Lost an Identical Twin
- Lost Not Found
- Victim Of A Shameful Health System
- I Am So Angry
- Fiancee Story
- My Life, My Story
- Sister’s Story (1)
- Sister’s Story (2)
- My Son’s Experiences
- A Mother’s Story
- I Just Felt So Helpless
- A Fathers Story
- Felix – Our Story
- A Husband’s Story
- A Mother’s Story (1)
- A Father’s Story (2)
- A Mother’s Story (2)
- A Mother’s Story (3)
- Hard To Believe It Was Me
- Belinda’s Story
- My Story
- Tony’s Feelings
- The Day Matthew Died
- Health Rights Commission – Suicide Related Complaints
- Suicide – The Story of a Survivor
- Aaron Justin Falland ~ Friend
- Aaron Justin Falland ~ Mother
- Ian’s Story
- Christopher Paul Gilson ~ Mate
- Christopher Paul Gilson ~ Mother
- Darren Booth ~ Mother
- Finding The Link Between Spiritual Experience And Mental Illness
- Suicide, sad but true
The following stories are real and have been reproduced here by permission of the Authors.
Names and any other connectable material have been removed or changed in order to protect the families and relatives of the deceased.
Brief History of Our Son
Our son was a happy child. His problems occurred from when he was 18-30 years of age, due to broken relationships, and termination of pregnancies with his partner.
He turned to drug use, got in trouble with the law, and disappeared for two years until we found him.
He became an alcoholic and could not hold down a job, so we took him under our care and he lived with us for 12 years.
We helped him with his own accommodation as he wanted to be independent, but he was always getting into financial difficulty or trouble with the police. We were always there to bail him out and help him financially.
We lost a lot of friends and family, as they could not understand why we kept helping him.
He hit rock bottom so many times, but we knew we had to help him. He stopped taking drugs when he was 27, but started to go into depression and was drinking heavily.
Our son was admitted to hospital where he was kept overnight. After being assessed through the mental health system, they said there was nothing wrong with him mentally and that he needed to sober up and sent him home.
Numerous doctors prescribed him anti-depressants. In 2011, one doctor diagnosed him as bipolar and gave him medication, which made him feel sick. So our son stopped taking them.
We could see he was going through mood swings and was not himself any more. We had seen him when he had problems with drug and alcohol use, but this was different.
Our local general practitioner prescribed him anti-depressant medication and he seemed much happier. We decided he would come to work with us. We would pick him up from where he was living; take him to work with us. We managed his wage as he was not good at budgeting his spending and we had to pick up the shortfall.
I would cook his meals and make sure he was eating well leaving a small amount of cash for cigarettes, otherwise he would buy alcohol. Dad would go with him to pick up his prescription to make sure he had enough medication.
One day, after our son had been drinking and fighting with his girlfriend, Dad found him at work where he had tried to hang himself. Our son had sent text messages to friends that he was going to kill himself.
Dad had to climb 30 feet up a toilet block wall to bring our son down. He was admitted to hospital and placed under guard for a week.
We spoke to the hospital psychiatrist, who said our son had told her he did not want to be on this earth and he would try again.
When we spoke to our son, he had a blank look on his face, could not give us an answer and stared at the ceiling all the time.
During his time in hospital, we asked to see his doctor, but no one spoke to us or contacted us to say our son was being transferred to a high security mental health facility.
He was released after a week, given medication and had an appointment the following week to see a psychiatrist. Our son did not like the psychiatrist so, after three visits, we found a psychiatrist who our son liked.
Our son was doing well, but his medication was not working. He said he could not sleep and complained that people were following him. His medication was changed several times.
One Sunday we took our son and his new girlfriend to see his close friend for the weekend farm.
We had not met his girlfriend, but he told us she was much old than him. He said: “Mum, when you meet her she looks very much older and rough around the edges.”
I gave her a hug and said to our son that if she makes him happy we are happy.
He was in good spirits and we hugged. His birthday was on the following Tuesday and I asked him what he could like to do to celebrate it.
He said: “Mum, nothing as you and dad have done so much.” I said we would do something the next weekend. That was the last time I saw him.
Dad saw our son on his birthday when he took him to get his medication script; he was happy.
The next day, Dad received phone calls on the way home from work from a friend of our son. He was worried that our son was not answering his phone. Dad went to our son’s unit and his girl friend’s – no one was at home.
Every time over the years that we could not contact our son, we would ring the hospital or police. We had to hear over the phone that our son has died in hospital – the news no parent wants to hear.
Our son was found hanging in a tree outside his girlfriend’s home; he had been drinking. A passer-by found him and called the ambulance, who tried unsuccessfully to revive him.
It is eight months since our son died and we are still waiting for the police and coroner’s report.
Our son had a habit of not taking his medication and then drinking. He had been told many times by doctors, psychiatrists, us and friends that he should not do this. He would just say, “I know what I am doing, I am 32 years of age.”
On cleaning our son’s unit, we found so many clues – police reports that he has been admitted to hospital for cutting his wrists, fights with police, etc, in the 12 months before his first suicide attempt.
As our son was an adult – and very good hiding behind his mask to the hospitals, health professionals, and his family – the hospital or psychiatrists to discuss his admission never contacted us.
The mental health system failed our son – he was misdiagnosed. We were alone in trying to help our son the best way we could, not knowing about mental illnesses.
Our son should have been kept under observation in hospital or mental health facilities to see if the medication was suitable and if there were any side effects.
I believe the medication he was on gave him suicidal tendencies, as this was one of the side effects mentioned when we read the warning label on his medication.
Our son never mentioned this – only that he could not sleep at night and slept all day. In his last six months, our son was not well enough to work with us.
We will never know why our son wanted to end his life as his conversations with the health professionals and psychiatrists are confidential. If we had been informed we could have understood him better.
He is our son and we have lost friends, as suicide is a stigma. I am pleased we have found White Wreath as we thought we were alone; it has helped me realise we are not.
Reading the stories on the website, the similarities stand out – changes need to be made to the mental health system.
We need facilities where patients can be assessed, kept under observation, monitored, and families given support.
Once a person has tried to commit suicide they should be on a register with the mental health system, hospitals, and police so the local GP or psychiatrist can be contacted immediately if they are involved in any altercation or hospitalised.
If they are adults, their next-of-kin should be notified. We don’t know if our son was honest with the hospital, health professionals and doctors about his feelings. We now know from the police reports that he lied to them.
Thanks to White Wreath for standing up for all the unheard voices of victims of suicide and their families.
We have to live without our loved one every day. It is like your heart has been ripped out. No one understands the pain, except if you have lived in our shoes. Everyone keeps saying that you have to move on and live your life, but is is so hard – you feel so helpless.
MOTHER’S STORY – I LOST AN IDENTICAL TWIN
I was left to raise 6 children 40 years or so ago. We were a loving family regardless of circumstances. There are 5 boys and 1 girl with a set of twins amongst. Larry and William were identical and felt what the other felt even down to what they wore.
Larry was the youngest twin also the youngest boy. In some respects we could not have chosen a more appropriate name as he turned out to be a lovable larrikin. No matter where we went people remembered him. When he got older he and his twin joined the Australian Navy and both did well. In their twenties they both met lovely young girls whom they later married. William and his wife went on to have two boys and Larry on the other hand did not have children. He adored his nephews and nieces .We often had get togethers to celebrate something or another and Larry was always the life of the party. The last few times of family gatherings I noticed Larry sitting alone so I asked was everything OK. His reply was always “fine mum, just tired” I thought no more of it.
Larry had started up a Dog Cleaning business and seemed to be enjoying it. I never heard from him for a while and then one night he rang to say he was coming to see me. He didn’t come and I still did not worry because that was the way the family was. They would say they are coming over but never did.
I was involved with quite a lot of charity work volunteering for three charities and always on the go at all times. One of the charities I volunteered for the President was told his mother had suicided. Evidently she had been suffering mental illness for some time. The day of her funeral when I was getting ready to go my phone rang. William the older twin rang to tell me Larry the younger twin is dead. I said what happened was Larry in an accident then Bill (William) started to cry and said, “No Mum he suicided”. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Bill said he would get back to me. Needless to say I did not go to the funeral. I spent the day with friends waiting to hear for more information.
You are probably wondering why I did not go with the rest of the family but there had been family upsets and we were not on talking terms. I was totally alone.
The funeral was arranged with a viewing and a friend took me and I saw Larry for the first time in 15 months. My family were very distant to me .The next day was a viewing of Larry and it was then I found out he had taken his life by carbon monoxide at Toohey’s Forest in the early hours of the morning. He and his twin just celebrated their 41st Birthday. The rest of the family placed the funeral notice in the papers but there was no mention of me his mother but there was apiece stating “We will always love you, your soon to be born, daughter Tegan and signed Rebecca.
If you remember I said Larry had no children, even though he loved children very much. It seemed as though he was being blamed for this. I started to put two and two together and realized what had happened. Larry did leave a letter to his wife and told her he loved her very much and also the rest of the family. When he used to sit on his own at those last few family parties, he was going through a depressing time and no doubt backed himself in a corner.. Being disturbed he did not think properly and just wanted to ease his pain.
The saddest thing is a little girl has been left without a father. If only Larry had somewhere to go, someone to talk with, this tragedy may have been avoided.
I know there are many stories like mine but we need to support White Wreath Assoc as much as possible and help them with their endeavours of building Safehaven Centres
Thanks to Fanita and her family for starting White Wreath and giving others the opportunity to meet others in the same circumstances. White Wreath day is truly a day to remember our loved ones. They did not die in vain. Always give your love to those closest to you no matter what. One does not know what is around the corner.
LOST NOT FOUND!
Hello, my name is John. I know you are not a counsellor but was reading your site. I’m 40 years old and was diagnosed with clinical, (whatever that is) depression about 4 years ago. At the time of diagnosis I was living in London, (I have only been here about 3 months). My doctor took about a year to come to this conclusion! During that year all I had were a bunch of blood tests and such. He then put me on sertraline, 50mg. Within-2 weeks-I was on 150mg. Sleep was impossible, (nothing new as I’ve had sleep problems since 6 years old, a legacy from mum and dad fighting all through the night).
I also would sweat profusely but only at night in bed. It wasn’t until I came to Australia that I found out I should be taking this medication in the morning. (I was directed to take it at night!) It took about 2 years before there was a vacancy to see a counsellor and when I went for my first appointment, it was all I could do not to kill myself right then and there. This was due to the so-called ‘therapy’.
Firstly, the counsellor was about 20 years old. Fresh out of college, and clearly did not have the experience to handle someone like me. I am very headstrong and am a dictionary of useless information. She would try to get me on one track but I would go on another. From what I know of depression, I felt that I knew more than she did. This is not her fault, as we all have to start somewhere. Unfortunately, this attitude of the health authorities, to fob me off on a trainee made me feel like an experiment and not worth enough as to send me to a qualified professional. I already feel like nothing, I don’t think I need someone else to reinforce that feeling. After 6 sessions I stopped going. I was leaving the premises with a rage I felt I could not contain myself. (Yes I did mention this to my doctor and got a response so memorable that I have completely forgotten it!)
During this time my wife, (who’s Australian), decided we should come and live here where I could access better mental health facilities. Its taken 3 and a half months to get one appointment with a therapist! and I don’t know when I will get another. My first is on the 15th November. One question I do have…if I’ve felt this way since I was 6, and have only stayed alive till now by self medicating, (which I didn’t know I was doing…and have recently stopped doing) but feel so tired now. I don’t think I can hang on any longer, how is one session going to change my thinking to the point where I don’t want to quit-
All through my life when someone has-suicided, the people left behind keep saying, ‘why didn’t they ask for help’. Why didn’t they say there was something wrong- Why didn’t they come to me- Well…I’ve been asking for help for 4 years going on 5 years now and I am standing at the same spot I was before.
My family can’t help. They don’t know how and I don’t blame them in the slightest. But they don’t understand what it must be like living in my head. They still treat me as if I should just get on with it! And the doctors- Well your website has said it all. All we are in the Government’s eyes are walking, talking wallets. Just bodies to pay taxes so they can down champagne and eat lobster while discussing poverty in Africa etc.
This session on the 15th has to be the session of all sessions, otherwise I think I’m gone.
To all those families out there who are blaming yourselves. Quite simply. Don’t! The person who has. suicided in your family isn’t blaming you. I should know I’m not blaming anyone but me.
Footnote:- John attended his appointment and said actually it went Ok. Still here…another one next week. One day at a time, (one minute at a time, really).
VICTIM OF A SHAMEFUL HEALTH SYSTEM
A recent coronial inquest into the death of a young man has revealed serious inadequacies in Logan hospital’s mental health unit.
My son Liam was a 19 year old third year apprentice carpenter, who was admitted to the Logan hospital mental health into 12th July, 2006 with suicidal ideations. During the two days that he was in Logan hospital, he was in an agitated and highly impulsive state, absconding while he was being admitted and them taken back to Logan hospital to be put into the open ward. My wife and I were warned by a nurse, that he could abscond over the perimeter fence, which is exactly what he intended to do once again. He was then placed into the Acute Observation area; he was there for approx. 36 hour period, once again he attempted to abscond by trying to smash the glass doors. After this he was sedated and put into seclusion.
On Friday the 14th July at 11:30 am, my wife was invited to a meeting with Dr. John Davies (the Director of Mental Health) and Dr. Ramesh Banda Wadena (Psychiatric P.H.O), Dr Davies had never assessed Liam before, but after a 30-40 minute interview he had made a fatal decision to release Liam back to the open ward on 15 minute observations, against my wife- deep concerns for his safety. He had been expressing suicidal ideations over the entire two day period that he was in hospital. My wife insisted on a private meeting with Dr. Davies, once Liam had left the room, to improve him to keep him in the Acute Observation Area, he was unmoved by her insistence. Within a very short time, Lima had scaled the perimeter fence and jumped in front of the 1pm north bound train near Loganlea railway station. Two weeks after Liam- death a 17 year old boy jumped in front of a train at Edens Landing, after being refused admission at the Logan Mental Health Unit.
A Coronial Inquest handed down their findings on the 20th March, 2009concerning Liam- death. They found that: Dr. Davies had not read Liam- medical notes, Dr. Bandawadena had not formally assessed him and that it was an error in judgement to remove him from the A.O.A to the open ward. There was no consideration given to increasing or changing his medication. The Coroner also found that the hospital did not adequately respond to the concerns raised by us during Liam- admission. Dr. W.J. Kingswell ( the new Director of Mental Health at Logan), has been quoted, -ogan area had the poorest resourced mental health service in Queensland, and that Queensland was the poorest resourced state in Australia, making this district the poorest resourced mental health service in Australia-. Dr. Michael Cameron, a formerly senior doctor at Logan hospital, who left because of what he described as, -oo dangerous and too dysfunctional: (Sundaymail march 29, 2009), obviously can see the problems. We are deeply concerned by the lack of resources and the worrying statistics (more than 500 people take their own lives in this state each year, overshadowing the 360 road deaths each year: (Sundaymail August 17, 2008). If the government doesn- start funding the mental health issues raised here, unfortunately we will see more families going through the trauma that my family has endured.
Footnote:- The author of “Victim of a Shameful Health System” has expressed that the above to be published as is. If you wish to make contact please call Head Office for details.
I AM SO ANGRY
My partner and I had been together over 25 years. He was 61 at time of death. On the evening of his death we had a huge fight as I just found out he was having an affair with another women. He desperately asked me to forgive him but I was so angry I just did not want to listen to what he had to say. Shortly after we went to bed he got up, took something out of his side chest of tables and went into the computer room. I waited a little as I calmed down by then and went to see what he was doing. The door of the computer room was slightly opened and I pushed it fully open. He was sitting on a chair with a shot gun between his legs with string attached from his toe to the trigger of the shotgun. Before I could say anything he pulled the trigger with his toe and shot himself in the head. His whole head and blood was splattered all over me and the room from top to bottom. I screamed and screamed and screamed running outside screaming for help. Nobody heard me. I had to ring the Police but my partner pulled the phone line out of the wall. I grabbed my mobile phone to call them and they came almost immediately. What I saw has absolutely traumatised me and I have terrible nightmares. The worst was I had to pay specialised cleaners to come and clean all the mess and to make it cheaper for myself I assisted them with the clean up. I had no choice financially. I do blame myself which I know I shouldn- but I keep thinking IF ONLY we did not have that huge fight he would still be alive. My thoughts and emotions are running rampant of what I could have done, what I should have done, what I should have said and tormenting myself with the why- and the if-. I am angry that nobody wants to help me. I am angry that nobody seems to care. I am angry at him for doing what he did. I am angry that I can- talk about what happened. I am so angry it seems to be consuming me. At least the White Wreath Association -ction Against Suicide has listened to my concerns and totally understands what I am going through. I have sent the White Wreath Association a photo of my partner and through them my partner will always be remembered on White Wreath Day-In Remembrance of All Victims of Suicide
Footnote:- We checked out this person- story regarding paying of cleanup and to our amazement the person did assist so cost of cleanup would be cheaper. We also discovered that the Government will compensate a family member up to $3,000 for cleanup if it is a murder/homicide and the tragedy happened in a home environment. However not so for a family member like the person in question who was also an innocent bystander and witnessed in front of them the most horrific suicide imaginable. The above is only a condensed version as the letter was much more detailed and explicit. How often have we explained the difference in understanding and compassion towards Mental Illness/Suicide compared to any other Death/Illness. This is a prime example that comes directly from Government. We did contact the Attorney-General & Minister for Justice Department to -lease Explain- and as usual the cold attitude that they can- do anything is frightfully sickening. We have stated many times that collectively Government Politicians/Advisers can do and change anything they want to. I Fanita Clark as Head of our Organisation receive horrific stories on a daily basis via phone, letters, emails etc but this is the worst I have ever come across that a person/human being be treated in this manner. In the meantime this person is so traumatised but has to suffer alone, in silence and cope the best way they possibly can. If this is possible.
We are one of the fortunate and the unfortunate. Unfortunate, because we lost a dearly loved son through suicide at the age of 28; fortunate because we found the White Wreath Assoc. where members have all suffered loss through suicide and therefore are the only ones who truly appreciate the devastation that suicide wreaks.
Having read all the articles and letters sent to the newsletter and having an affinity with each and every one in some part I will not add my particular experience. Instead I want to offer HOPE. Yes, HOPE. You will laugh again. When we first went to an organisation in Perth, WA called Compassionate Friends, there were all these survivors of suicide – laughing. I was angry – how dared they laugh when we are suffering so badly, don- they know. But of course they did know because they had all been through the despair we were suffering on that day.
I can- tell you when you will join the world again. It took me years – too many years and I am sure this withdrawing from the world took its toll on other members of my family as well. But, as you would know, I just couldn- help it. I was one of the lucky ones with a husband who tried his utmost during the period of my depression. The chances are we are also dealing with other issues prior to the suicide of our loved one, difficult family members, work worries, -ime of life-, financial problems. It is like a volcano and the suicide sets all the other -ubbish- off into a catalyst explosion. We are then faced with dealing with everything at once – no wonder it takes time to recover.
But as I said there is HOPE. Time will not necessarily take away your pain. After 12 years we just yearn to have our son back with us. Of course, this is not going to happen. What follows is -cceptance-. We have to accept that Mark is not coming back. We remember his laugh, he loved company, he was an extrovert, and he would talk to us about anything and everything he was doing. He was married to a lovely girl who embraced us as her family. You ask, Why, and the answer is we don- know. We just get a phone call at 4.00 am to tell us our son has died, hit by a train – the rest as they say is history.
We have joined the world again; we laugh again and have fun, go on holidays and outings, meet friends. Sometimes on outings we will say -ark would like this- or -o you remember when Mark did that-. We don- exclude him; he was part of us for 28 years and will never be forgotten. That is often a fear. That our loved son/daughter will be forgotten – they won- be. Don- give up HOPE that one-day you will feel better than you do right now.
MW, Brisbane Qld
Losing some-one close to you to suicide is something only those who have experienced it first hand can really understand.- And yet, at a time when everyone is feeling such deep loss, harsh words and accusations are thrown with intent to hurt those who are already trying to comprehend the reality of what has just happened.
Everyone seems to have their own personal views on what events lead to the suicide.- Blame towards others seems to be the easier alternative, in order to hide their own deep self doubt that maybe, they themselves could have or should have done or said something to change the present circumstances.
No one is to blame.- This is not murder or an accident.- This is suicide, the end result of mental illness.- Whether the illness was long-term or short-term, at the time of suicide, a thought disorder was present.
Why are we so afraid to accept that a loved one just wasn’t thinking straight at the time of suicide’ Their thought pattern is muddled – will I, won’t I. Their final decision is just that – final.- Even if you had the chance to give them a million reasons why they shouldn’t, their thought process wouldn’t accept what you had to say.
By not blaming others, you also take away that hidden underlying guilt and blame from yourself
Living with a gentle soul who was full of dreams, so kind and loving one minute, then turn into someone who was irrational and irresponsible, was very draining for me. I know his family experienced similar experiences, for I’ve witnessed them myself.
After the death of my fiance my way of dealing with it was a strong desire to speak out and bring about awareness to those who may be in a similar situation.- Once I found the White Wreath Association, I saw it as my opportunity to do something positive in his memory.
Sadly though, his family did not see it that way – they have chosen to blame me.
MY LIFE, MY STORY
How do I know where to begin? The call came through that day, a mother sobbing on the phone to report the death of her 18 year old daughter. My heart just broke for her, I was crying inside with each question she answered, but could find no words that would ever be enough to express my sorrow at her loss and her pain. I put down the phone and cried, yet she was a complete stranger. It was only later I learnt that her daughter had committed suicide, her parents had found her.
That call broke my heart and I couldn’t get that young girl out of my mind for weeks, although I’d never met her. In the ensuing I was on the phone to every help line I could get hold of. All suicides affect me deeply, but something about her just ‘got’ to me.
Maybe because I understood her pain, as I understand the pain of all suicide victims, because I’ve been there myself. I lived in that place of despair and desperation of wanting to die for many years, and I tried; My God I tried so many times to end my life – serious attempts, and during a really bad phase, it was my young daughter who was nine at the time who had to ring the Ambulance to get me to the hospital, and who would find me unconscious – repeatedly.- I was even in a relationship with a man for 2 years who had HIV, and I never used protection, because I hoped I’d contract the disease and die – I just didn’t want to live and thought if I contracted the disease, it would shorten my life and get me out of this hell called life.
I was molested by a neighbour at 9, and my own brother at 13, and I was a lost soul, always looking for love. I had a father who adored me and a mother who I felt despised me. She loved me, but when I turned about nine, she cut off all feeling toward me – I never knew why, and as I grew into a teenager, she constantly compared me to other people and asked why didn’t I act and dress like them. I felt I was never good enough. It didn’t help my self esteem that I nearly died due to an illness at 12, and was left with horrific scars all over my stomach, so I felt flawed inside and out. I started drinking at 13, and discovered boys very young and did a lot of things that I regret, but I so desperately wanted to be loved.
My dad died when I was 16, and my mum blamed me – she used to say that it was because I worried him so much that he died – He died because his lungs collapsed, but when you’re 16 – hearing those words breaks your heart. That was about the time I first started having my depressive bouts, and went to doctors and would be put on anti depressants and they have been a part of my life, off and on, since.
My life had been so ‘abnormal’ from the time I was a young child ‘ I came from a European family – which made me ‘feel’ different , I always felt like a misfit like I didn’t ‘belong’ anywhere, like I was adopted, , and I was so extremely sensitive and desperate to please. I remember being 16, and thinking ‘I’m too weak for this world; it’s too evil, how will I ever survive it’– I just didn’t think I could cope, even back then. And I had my first taste of alcohol at around 8, and I remember feeling really alive and happy, for the first time.
I got myself in all sorts of trouble with men, always seemed to pick the ones that were abusive or violent, I couldn’t understand it at the time, but now after years of therapy I have learnt those sort of men can sense your vulnerability, and I was so very vulnerable.- One time, during one of my worst relationships, I attempted suicide by taking 200 or so anti depressants I had been prescribed, and the lovely chap I was with left me on the floor where he found me unconscious; mind you – he had sex with me while I was unconscious, but he didn’t bother getting help for me or picking me up off the floor. He was in the army, and didn’t want it on his record, that his Fianc- had tried to commit suicide.- I was unconscious for 3 days and couldn’t talk properly for a week, as I was slurring so badly from all the drugs in my system. I remember feeling terrified that I’d permanently damaged my speech, and would talk like that for the rest of my life.
In my late 30’s, I got the idea that I needed to drink more, and by 39, I had became a full blown Alcoholic, who drank 24/7 – this was whilst raising a daughter on my own. I’d take her to school drunk, I’d pass out while she was at school and drink myself silly once I got her to bed – which I couldn’t wait to do so I could really get into the drink, pass out again, wake up through the night, have another binge, and on and on it went day after day, year after year. All the time I was off and on anti depressants; prozac, Zoloft, prothaiden – too many to remember.
I’d try to stop drinking, but I couldn’t – not even for a day. Then I started to think I was better off dead, and so would everyone else be. So for months and months I took countless cocktails of pills 200, 500 – whatever I could get my hands on and that I had in the house. I lost count of how many times I was in the psychiatric ward after having my stomach pumped and being put in there till I was ‘safe’ to come home. I saw Psychiatrists, Phycologists, drug and alcohol councillors and on and on it went. But I just couldn’t get over the sense of helplessness and despair I felt.
I just carried so much shame and guilt about my life and the things I had done. Although I’m sober now my life was chaos for many decades, and the depression and self loathing and shame and guilt and hurt I caused others – and myself, was too much of a burden to bear. In hindsight, I realise I had never learnt to deal with any emotion without alcohol to help me get through it – especially all the pain in my life and the sensitiveness of my character.
Eventually, I met one too many bad men and got myself and my daughter into a lot of trouble. I moved in with him and he was an alcoholic too, and boy, did my daughter and my life go to hell, She witnessed the alcohol infuelled fights, the craziness of two alcoholics living together. In the end I was so broke, I was drinking vanilla essence to get drunk, and I even tried metho, but I just couldn’t bear the taste and smell.- Eventually for her own good, I put her into temporary foster care, with the hope of getting sober but again I failed But eventually, I got sober long enough to get her back – maybe a 5 week stretch of sobriety.
Then a miracle happened; yet another councillor I was seeing (and I saw many throughout my life), stepped in and gave us the opportunity to get away from this man, and we were placed in a women’s refuge – I was broke and bankrupt and had very little possessions by then. Drinking wasn’t allowed at the Refuge but still I couldn’t stop at first, but a pinhole of hope gleamed through the darkness of my despair, and slowly our lives changed, and I stopped drinking.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done – dealing with a lifetime of suppressed emotions and living life without a crutch such as alcohol. I could never have coped without the help of an amazing councillor, who taught me how to live in this sometimes terribly painful world, and she taught me coping mechanisms and ways to deal with emotion.- But the hardest part was really feeling for the first time in my life, the disappointments, the hurts, the shame, the fear – almost every emotion. I literally had to reprogram my brain and the way I thought for the whole of my life.
It took 3 years of intense therapy, and I’m still terribly sensitive and still can get depressed at the drop of a hat – one thing goes wrong and the worlds coming to an end! Everything’s catastrophic. With the help of a 12 step programme, I’m sober – have been for 4 years, and that has been another saving grace for me, but again was one of the most difficult things I have done.
-But life today is so precious, and so full of hope. I wish I could say that I don’t find the world a harsh cruel place at times, but I’ve learnt ways to cope, have a gentle man in my life, and live a comparatively ‘normal life’. Over the past four years, there have been bouts of depression, and moments when I feel like ending it all – but they’re fleeting thoughts! -I’m careful of the warning signs now and when I know the world is getting too much for me to bear and I can’t cope – I see my local doctor and firstly get medication before I hit rock bottom, and secondly I talk, talk, talk – to people who can help me get through it – councillors, help lines, friends – I don’t isolate myself or my disease anymore.
So, I guess why I am so affected by every suicide I hear about and see – and I mean literally see, because I work for a funeral Home,- I’m deeply affected because I wouldn’t be here telling you this if I had of been successful in my attempts. And because my heart is filled with sadness for the anguish, pain and desperation people feel when they are suicidal and take their own life. And maybe my story may let someone see that little pinhole of light through the darkness of their despair like I did, and make it through.
Every time I take a call that’s a suicide, I grieve for the loss of such a precious life because I know you can work through it. And I grieve for those left behind, and all I can do is pray, because I never seem able to find the right words to express my sorrow for their loss. And I pray at night that God holds you in the palm of his hands, until you’re strong enough to carry yourself through the darkest hours, days and months ahead.
SISTER’S STORY (1)
On the 17 June 1986, I lost my brother Graham to suicide as he shot himself, and the pain the hurt I carry will always be there, as I loved and will always love and miss him dearly.
It has been 21 years of tears and pain that has always remained, it feels like that it was yesterday.- It should not of happened and I am so angry and hurt.- I write poems for my darling brother, Graham, and it comes from my heart.
When I lost my brother a part of me went with him and I have tried to take my own life too as I had no one to talk to about it as I was asking why did he have to go away but got no answer.- But I know he is with me always and forever.- I have tried to take my own life several times but was talked out of it, and now I know my brother wants me to be strong for our mum as he was the most strong, loved man you could ever meet.- As my brother once said to me when we were kids, you can be strong and love ya Sissy, always be happy and tell your family you love them.- He would always smile and always loved life and family.- There is a lot of pain inside of me and so very angry and this will last a life time.- The pain will always remain.- All I say now is Dear Humble I will always love and miss you forever.
Love always your sister
SISTER’S STORY (2)
It is just over 10 months since Cameron age 42 took an overdose of prescribed medication then gassed himself as the result of bi-polar disease.- Sometimes it feels as if it were just yesterday that we lost him.- Sometimes we can’t even seem to come terms with his death and that our feelings of sadness will last forever.- Our hearts are broken and we will never be the same again.’ But on the other hand our love for him grows stronger every day and we know that we will never forget him.- We strive to remember the good times as well as the bad times.- We hope that through the White Wreath newsletter it will help others understand the struggle for Cameron and for us as his family. Excerpts from his diaries which will be published in future issues of our newsletter.
From his sister.
MY SON’S EXPERIENCES
An extract taken from the book my son Daniel started to write about his experiences. Daniel hanged himself on 19 October 2006.
‘o in my room the flickers were back, now by this time I thought well I even saw some one run over the back fence, but only I had seen him or her jump the fences, so was I going crazy. Another day passed as more confusion spun through my head, now it was day time and then I heard what sounded like the roof was getting moved again. And I could see the roof boards getting pushed down again. Well mum had gone to work and my step dad wad out doing trade( fitting & turning,) so I watched the roof and now I could hear footsteps in the attic, some one was really in there and now I’m going to catch them in the act. (I figured after going up the first time didn’t think they would leave this time, so once again as quick and as quietly as I could I grabbed the chair gently put it on the floor. I lifted the man hole cover. See this was going to be where I finally see who they are, at last. So I did a quick chin-up and got up there, and as I glanced round the attic, no one was there again, but I was positive I heard some one. Maybe I gotta go look a bit more at the chimney. So I got out of the roof, went outside and climbed on to the roof and then made my way to the chimney with my old trusty torch. I studied the chimney a bit and it occurred to me the loose brick that would be the perfect size for some one to fit perfectly, so I shone the torch in and I could see nothing. Now I could hear shhh shhh again, you don’t want him to hear us, and it was coming from at the bottom of the chimney but even with the torch I could not see down, but what if they couldn’t blow up the tank or it would have blown them up too. So I got to thinking what if they were in a big brick chimney and what if there were gas lines that passed through it because if there are, I’m stuffed and they’ll be safe from an explosion.
Then I thought of some thing what if they aren’t really there. Well I didn’t want to stay at my house. The paranoia of people trying to blow me up again, cause I head felt safe before because I heard the lighters for over a month but nothing had been blown up. But now they got a way of surviving and still getting rid of me, and taking a huge chunk out of my house.
So I decided to go to Johnie’s these boyz are pretty hard maybe they can help me with my problem. So I told my mates about my cousin and his best friend were trying to blow me up and I told them everything.
I was so convinced I saw someone. I was getting a bit worried bout people trying to blow me up and people in the house. Unfortunately I never had any proof that there was someone out there… I never even found them or seen them.
It started off making me angry when people are in my roof laughing at me as I would try to sleep. I’d run outside and tell them to come and fight me and when there was no reply I gave them a count from 30 to come out but no one came. So standing in the back yard counting again this time back from 30 burrin’ up for a blue. after I reached 0 no one came and well I began to grow very wary of these people that mocked me at I slept and laughed at me, and dropped feathers on me to piss me off. At first I was scared even petrified, but that soon turned to anger.
So as I went to school I began to grow bitter at my friends and my mate Tyson kept asking me ‘hat’s wrong’- and I’d reply ‘othing’ and he just kept asking me and I was getting more annoyed. A week after that I end up given up school. I just didnt want to go any more. http://www.daniel-coorey.memory-of.com/
A MOTHER’S STORY
Robert was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1994. In the early days of his illness Robert spent a lot of time in and out of every major hospital in Brisbane, and he escaped from them all at one time or another.
The only real care he received was from the staff at John Oxley Hospital where he was a patient for five years, purely because he couldn’t look after himself without proper care.
When he was released, he ended up in various boarding houses and hostels where apart from seeing a case manager once a week for medication, the rest of his care was left up to me his mother and as much as I loved him and would have done anything for him, sometimes it was all to hard and at times I had never felt so alone.
There needs to be a lot more help out there and not just for the person suffering the illness, but for the whole family.
‘ay Robert Rest In Peace’ now, as after twelve years of mental torture it all became too much for him and on January 9th 2006 he jumped from Victoria Bridge and drowned.
He will be missed terribly.
I JUST FELT SO HELPLESS
I would like to relate to you something that happened to me in July of this year. I will transcribe my story exactly as I wrote it the day after the event.
Well this afternoon I saw a young lad take his own life by lying on a railway track.
He couldn’t have been very old 16/17 perhaps. I saw him standing at the gates waiting for the all clear to cross, he did appear a little agitated but I didn’t really take much notice as I was sitting in my car waiting for the train to pass. Then as the whistle blew he made his way to the centre of the track, lay down, sat up again to see if the train was coming, then calmly lay down again. The train was then upon him and he was thrown to the side of the track on impact, very bloodied limbs askew. The train stopped as soon as it could, but there was nothing that the driver could have done. There was a guy in a car next to me who was very badly affected and got out of his car and threw up. He could not bring himself to even look in the boy’s direction. He came to me and said he had to go. I said he should stay and talk to the police, he in tears said he couldn’t but gave me his name and number then very hurriedly left the scene. By this time the driver of the train, who was very upset was standing on the track and calling essential services. I had a blanket in my car so I asked him to cover what he could of the boy. I then sat and waited for the police to arrive.
I just felt so helpless at not being able to get to this lad. I do not know if he was killed instantly or if there was anything that I could have done in those last few minutes of his life to have helped in any way.
It took nearly an hour before I could leave the scene by the time the police, accident investigation, ambulance and railway personnel arrived and I retold by story over and over again.
There were two comments made by people at the scene that really stuck with me, the guy from the railways said that this was the 6th suicide by train that had happened that week. And a constable said to me (because I work in palliative care) seeing the suicide probably wouldn’t affect me as much as it would those who had never dealt with death before.
Now dealing with people dying of terminal disease, and people, especially young people taking their lives because of not being able to get the help they need in no way make dealing with unnecessary death easier.
I guess this is another side to suicides, those strangers who are involved. Those people who just have to get on with their lives without any assistance – without knowing the causes, the effects and all the other aspects involved with suicides. I know I often wonder about this boy. Did he have family and friends, was there a medical reason, was he high on drugs, was it spur of the moment or did he plan it in advance. These are questions that for me are never going to be answered, as my involvement stopped once my statement was given. I have had no contact from anyone since it happened.
I have probably rambled on long enough and I don’t know if I can be of any assistance to your organization. I am happy to send a donation if you can give me an address and if you feel that I can be of any help please let me know.
Thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest.
I wish you success in your endeavours
A FATHER’S STORY
My son was 25 years old when he suicided.
I could not receive proper confirmation of how my son suicided but only hearsay that my son consumed a packet of tranquillisers, went into the bathroom with a bottle of LPG gas, blocked off all windows and door with a towel and turned on the gas.
My family and I spent much time coming to grips with the enormity of what had happened with lack of care and treatment.
As time went by I found myself more and more angry. The general indifference of the system, the apparent uncaring of society and the lack of any help before my son suicided and afterwards.
We were well aware that our son was at risk of taking his own life and over the years he had tried to seek help. None was effectively available except the usual ‘ere, take these pills, try to relax, see you in 4 weeks’ scenario.
I wanted to help the doctors and psychiatrist with my knowledge of my son’s background and to help with any treatment that they may have offered my son. Because of the confidentiality law I was excluded and never contacted by doctors or psychiatrists of my son’s condition even though the medical profession knew my son was suicidal.
I feel betrayed by the medical profession because they are supposed to have the patient’s best interest at heart.
Till this day, anyone or any organisation for help has never contacted me. We have been left totally on our own to cope the best we can. No one seems to care or understand. I’m sure that if my son had died in a public forum, perhaps made the news, we would have been inundated with grief counsellors, offers of help etc.
For our family left behind the hurt is no less traumatic than had we been a ‘Port Arthur’ victim. Yet society’s response in helping the surviving families is vastly different.
My son’s suicide is no less a tragedy to me and I believe was as much a victim to the ills of our society as were the victims of the ‘Port Arthur ‘ massacre. But they at least, rightfully, received a great deal of help and perhaps some comfort in society’s response and support.
Only with caring, compassion, and the facilities to take care of our children can we hope to fight this epidemic of despair.
FELIX – OUR STORY
My son Felix was 16 ½ years when he tragically shot himself, leaving an enormous hole in our lives with so many unanswered questions. He was a wonderful son, a quiet boy, courteous, hard working but he loved his cricket and athletics. The hardest thing to understand is why he never confided in anyone about how he was feeling, not even his best mates at school. He obviously had some sort of depression that had started to manifest itself in the latter half of his 15th year but he was able to mask it in some way, even from his family. He was our only son, and excelled in operating the machines on the property and that was what he loved the most about being on the land. He was becoming an expert at driving all the machinery we had, dozers, graders, front end loaders and yet seemed unaware of the special gift that had been bestowed upon him from an early age.
My son had been in boarding school from the age of 12years but it wasn’t until Grade 10 that we noticed he started to become moody and depressed especially after the holidays when he had to go back to the school, yet back in school everything settled down or so it seemed on the outside. It was then we sat down with him and told him that if anything at all seemed too much for him he must confide in us as we were always here for him. His school marks never showed there was a problem looming that was slowly eating away inside him. At school he worked diligently, was popular, ate well, slept well and had fun like normal teenagers do when they are with mates. At the commencement of Year 11, he didn’t want to go back to school but when we discussed, as concerned families do, that to finish senior would be of benefit to him, he relented and never argued with us.
Felix had just gone through a tough mid-term exam in mid 2003 and was almost relieved to be home for the holidays. But coming home he seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders and became almost intentionally withdrawn from me, especially avoiding physical contact to the point of becoming aggressive, which I found disturbing. Concerned, I assumed he was going through a stage of growing up and this was his way of breaking his bond with his mother and getting closer to his father. As parents we did not even consider depression let alone suicide as we had brought both our children up knowing that if anything bothered them our lines of communication were always be open. We often had forums of discussion around the dinner table as our children were growing up and there were other relatives such as grandparents and aunts, just a phone call away, which were also close to our children.
During the three weeks at home I noticed there was something that had changed with his personality but when I tried to ask him about it he brushed it off and didn’t want to talk about it. My son was struggling with dark thoughts but wouldn’t let anyone in to help him.
On the 15th July, the day he was to return to boarding school with his sister, I had decided it was time to contact a counsellor on our return to the school to see if there was something I could do for him. It was breaking my heart to seem him so down.
That morning he had half packed his bag but took off without saying anything and did not leave a note or letter to explain the actions that led to his death. We found him after searching for 5 hours, that afternoon and from that day on our lives changed forever.
The most tragic thing to come out of this is that he could’ve been helped through this if only he had opened up to someone or if we had been aware of the possibility that depression is very common in teenagers. It is ironic that parents and teachers spend the most time with children yet they aren’t they being taught to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression and mental illnesses.
When the school found out that he had taken his life, they kicked into a self-preservation mode where the information about his death was kept under wraps. Not even his closest friends were told of his actions, they had only been told of a `farm accident’. Isn’t it ironic that the students are expected to become more mature, to handle adult life as they progress to their senior years yet they are not allowed to be told the truth about what happens in real life. They are treated like children, that shouldn’t know the awful truth because most of the schools are concerned that if you mention the word, ‘suicide‘ you could put that thought into their head and they may cause them to do it. How ill informed society is about suicide!
It is high time the education system realised that the only way to fight this `insipid killer’ that lurks inside the minds of many of our hormonally, chemically imbalanced, depressed youth making them capable of snapping at any moment when they feel there is nothing left to do but act impulsively and affect the lives of everyone around them, like a ripple effect in a pond – and change them forever- is to talk about it openly.
When Felix died I searched for answers and for many months researched everything I could find about depression and suicide and then took it upon myself to write his story in all the local papers around our area as there had been a number of teenage suicides occurring and the local media had taken on the role of bringing this to public attention. I felt by telling my story someone else may be experiencing the same problem with their son or daughter. (It did help someone.) I also wrote to the teachers of his school to make them aware of how my son died, as I know for a fact that they were not told of the truth either.
Since Felix’s death the school has implemented the `blues’ programme in their system and some of the other schools in the town have also taken up the fight against suicide by making available information on depression in adolescent and how it can lead to suicide.
The education system needs to be aware of the `blue’ period that our youth can go through especially in these demanding stressful times that society imposes on us now.
As parents we have to live with this burden for the rest of our lives and it seems just as the pain subsides something in the conscience will trigger a memory and then all that pain comes flooding back making it a constant battle to maintain a positive outlook on life and the future.
The truth is, I found that this does happen to those children that are cherished and loved by their families and that they are supportive, loving and competent parents who are deeply affected and scarred by the actions of their suffering children.
A HUSBAND’S STORY
I was married for 20 years when my wife suicided at the age of 40.
My wife was sexually abused as a child and despite 7 previous attempts her situation was never taken seriously.
I repeatedly on many, many occasions tried to receive help for my wife. Because of the confidentiality law I was excluded from any treatment she did receive. The hospital psychiatrist advised me on numerous occasions that her problem had nothing to do with me.
I begged them to involve and inform me of what was happening with my wife. I told them I am the family carer looking after our very young daughter and trying to cope with my wife’s illness. I said when she has her bad days that I am the one who is bathing her, dressing her and trying to cope with the family in general 24 hours a day. I also need help to understand what is happening. It did not matter what I said the confidentiality law was thrown at me from every direction. All I wanted was to help the one I most love, my wife.
What I wanted was to be involved and informed of my wife’s treatment, help doctors and psychiatrists with my knowledge of my wife’s illness and, in turn, enable the medical profession to help my wife. I ask why.
I feel betrayed by society. Because of my wife’s age she has only become an insignificant statistic. I am sure if this was youth suicide someone may have cared. Nobody cares. Nobody understands. Nobody wants to know.
A MOTHER’S STORY
My 18 year old son on several occasions spoke to me of suicidal thoughts. Because my son smoked marijuana and in the past had used intravenous drugs I thought that it might have been adolescent behaviour combined with drugs that may have distorted his thinking. Something I hoped he would over come.
One Saturday morning I had to take my younger son to the doctor’s and pick up a few groceries. My younger son, after the doctor’s appointment went on to see a friend. I was gone no longer than 1 hour.
When I returned I went down stairs to the laundry. I found my son hanging. I was alone in the house and by myself I had to cut him down. Crying and in complete disbelief I gave my son CPR, desperately trying to revive him. I did not want to stop the CPR but I had to ring 000. I was in total shock but managed to rush back up the stairs and ring the emergency number for help. They advised me not to hang up and continue the CPR until the ambulance arrived. I was out of breath and tired but continued CPR until they arrived.
I was traumatised. To find my child hanging and dead in my home was beyond comprehension. Something that you would never expect to see in your life.
I repeatedly ask myself questions of why was I so naive not to believe my son when he spoke of suicide.
I ask how would I have known if we as a society are not educated on suicide. Family and carers, in most cases think this is the behaviour of adolescents. We do not know how to differentiate between behavioural problems and serious problems. Psychiatrists, doctor’s etc specialise for many years on this specific issue of suicide.
We, the community care givers, are totally ignorant on this subject. We are left to find our own way.
A FATHER’S STORY
My 46 year old son suffering mental illness and severe depression was treated as an outpatient with prescribed medication.
My son and his family constantly asked for him to be admitted and treated in hospital care.
He was denied this treatment even though he attempted suicide several times previously.
He could take no more and went out bush, killed himself with carbon monoxide and was found 10 days later.
A MOTHER’S STORY
My son tried Qld, NSW and Victoria seeking help for his drug addiction and depression.
He was informed that it would be a minimum of a 3 week waiting period before he could be entered into drug rehabilitation.
He knew he was in need of immediate treatment, which the medical profession ignored, and he knew he could not wait any longer.
While at a train station he broke a bottle and slashed his wrists and face. He was rushed to hospital by Ambulance. He was admitted to Mental Health and kept in for 2 days.
In this time psychiatrists assessed him and advised that they were unable to by pass him into drug rehabilitation.
My son was released from hospital at 5.55PM, two days after he was admitted.
He went home, hung himself and was found dead 6.30PM that evening.
I had to identify his body.
A MOTHER’S STORY
My son was 38 years of age when one day he bought two cans of kerosene, went underneath a bridge, consumed tranquillisers then set fire to himself.
He was suffering from schizophrenia and manic depression since he was 18 years of age. He had been suicidal for a number of years in and out of hospital mental health units.
Because of his age I was never allowed to be involved in his treatment. I was in a helpless situation. The pain and anguish I suffered seeing my son deteriorate and there was nothing I could do. My heart was breaking. There was no support for me or any understanding to help me cope with what I was going through.
My son had anger and aggression attacks where I became frightened of him. I started to feel ashamed of myself for having these feeling as I new deep down he would never harm me, but I was still frightened. The worst part was that I was on my own constantly with his problem and I had no one to talk to. I took the brunt of these attacks and I was always walking on thin ice with him. I had to be careful in everything I said and did in case it was something I said or did that would set him off.
I desperately tried to help him. The lack of communication in not involving me his mother and the rest of the family is inexcusable. I will never understand the logic of the hospitals and psychiatrists. Nobody new my son like I did. I loved him.
Then one dreaded day I received a phone call.
Your son is——————– I cried and cried and cried and I am still crying.
HARD TO BELIEVE IT WAS ME
I suffered a state of depression some time back when I was involved in an emotionally difficult relationship while at the same time trying to complete a law degree at university. The relationship eventually ended and I did completed my law degree. I am now doing my final professional year for admission. In those difficult years I felt so low, confused and lost and did not know which way to turn. There were times when I felt suicidal. I had thought of ways of killing myself – playing it through my mind like a little movie. I thought of how it would look and how all those I knew would react to it. Those thoughts really frightened me at the time. I used to say to myself “how can this be … how could you be thinking this way-” When I look back on it now I find it really hard to believe it was me.
It all got that way because I just felt so helpless and confused and didn’t know what to do or which way to turn. I thought it was the only thing to do to make all the pain and anxiety go away. You may think you have no where to turn or that it is all hopeless. But you have to believe that things will get better. I sought help from all sources – friends, family and doctors. While at times it felt like all the help and advice only made things worse I knew that having people around to talk to did in the end bring me around and help resolve things.
A psychologist I saw said that given what I was going through he was surprised I had not turned to drink or drugs. Even in the state I was in I knew that drinking or taking drugs was not the solution. It had never been a part of my life before so I knew that given the way I was feeling I had to keep what ever wits and sanity I had in tact and not be numbed to all that was going on. I have tried various medications and some made me feel worse and some made me feel better. I don’t take medication anymore and have not done so for at least 7 years. I feel I can now take control of my thoughts and emotions in situations and deal with things affecting me without letting it get the better of me or needing to resort to medication. I have now been able to address things in my life and deal with issues.
I suffered the loss of my mum to cancer when I young. I was one of five children under 14 and we all had to ‘get tough’ and get on with life and help our dad out. When I hit a certain age, being in a realtionship with a girl who had a child from a previous relationship, all the social pressures and not knowing where things were headed with my life and work etc it all just came out. There were so many weird emotions that had just been locked up for so long.
I feel so much stronger now and I feel better within myself because I know I have the abilty to overcome whatever is now thrown my way. Life is a process and we are growing and evolving each and every day. Don’t ever throw it away. There is so much out there. We need to be stong and stick together and help each other get as much out of life as we possibly can. I have had friends and family who have been in the same situation so I know that depression and the threat of suicide is a very real issue.
I would never like to go through the same experience again but if I do, I know that suicide is not the answer. You always have to believe that no matter how bad things seem they will always get better. You have to try and take control of yourself and say “I can overcome this, I will get through it because I am strong”. Help is out there. You are not alone and you don’t need to be alone.
On 23 October 2000 my beautiful 24-year-old daughter caught a taxi to the Kuraby Railway Station. She walked onto the platform and headed north walking between the train tracks. As the train to Beenleigh travelled down the slight incline towards Kuraby Station, the driver saw my daughter with her arms outstretched almost welcoming her certain fate. Although he took immediate evasive action he was unable to stop the train in time and my daughter Belinda was killed instantly.
Why had this beautiful, talented girl – a much loved daughter, sister, mother and friend ended her life in such a seemingly tragic manner-
Belinda was the middle of three daughters born 3 years and 3 months apart. She and her sisters were much loved, encouraged, disciplined and praised and raised in a close family, which in turn was supported by many extended family members and friends. Although Belinda appeared to have it all – good looks, talent and a caring sensitive nature she had always seemed to have problems. I remembered early constipation problems. She had her first asthma attack at 7 years old, an illness that plagued her all her life. She was often anxious and suffered panic attacks. Through it all though she was a bright student and she excelled at sport and music.
At 12 years of age Belinda started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana, became sexually active, once ran away from home and her schoolwork deteriorated. She became disruptive in class and became well known to the school administration. The stress started to take its toll on the family. I took Belinda to school and church counsellors but no one seemed able to help. She was labelled uncontrollable, a bad influence, promiscuous and rude. She was a round peg in a square hole. We encouraged her to join the lifesavers and at 15 years of age, while attending lifesavers’ camp, she overdosed on tablets and alcohol. She was hospitalised overnight and discharged the next morning. As a family we were shattered and confused and did not know where to turn.
Our GP referred us to her first psychiatrist and after 5 weeks we were finally given an appointment. She was labelled unipolar and put on antidepressants. During the ages 15 -20 she remained difficult and unstable but was able to complete Year 12 and then attend university and graduate as a registered nurse. During these years there were several more suicide attempts – cutting her wrists, overdosing on medication, running in front of cars and once swimming out to sea at night. She was under the same psychiatrist this whole time but his only form of treatment was adjusting her medication.
At 20 years old Belinda moved away from home into a flat with another nurse. Before long both girls were heavily into the drug scene. Belinda became addicted to amphetamines almost immediately and her life spiralled downhill fast. On her 21st birthday she arrived at our door in an emaciated psychotic state and after trying all day to have her admitted we were finally able to get her admitted into her first psychiatric hospital. She weighed 41kgs and all her body organs were ready to collapse. That was just the beginning of the nightmare.
Over the next three years she endured 20 psychiatric admissions (various private and public hospitals) and several drug rehab admissions. Once discharged from hospital she was never offered support. She was labelled bi polar, schizophrenic, suffering schizoaffective disorder and drug addict. She was told she was delusional, paranoid, depressed, worthless, unmotivated and lazy. She heard voices in her head, had hallucinations, spoke in different voices and was catatonic a lot of the time. I was once told that she was possessed by the devil. The various psychiatrists prescribed an assortment of anti psychotic medications, tranquillisers and antidepressants. These medications nearly always had horrendous side effects, which rendered her fidgety, gave her blurred vision, made it unable for her to concentrate and made her sleepy and unmotivated. She once told me that when she first used speed she felt really happy for the first time in her life. Unfortunately it was too late once she realised how devastating the descent into drug addiction can be.
During a period between hospital admissions she became pregnant. Although strongly advised to terminate this pregnancy she felt that having a child may give her the incentive to become drug free. She cut down the usage considerably and a healthy daughter was born in October 1999. Unfortunately she went into psychosis just after the birth and she was separated from her child and regulated in hospital again. Over the next twelve months she tried so hard to be a responsible loving mother to her child, finally admitting herself into a drug rehab when the going became too tough. She knew that if she did not beat her drug problems she would lose her baby. The Department of Families had become involved. However a couple of weeks after her daughters 1st birthday, the separation from her baby had become too painful and she could see no hope in her life. She had tried every avenue open to her and she could not break her addiction. She ran away from the rehab and took the final steps to end her life.
I had never given up hope of her getting her life together and the shock was overwhelming. As a family we had gone through every emotion during the previous 3 years and although we had all done the very best we could to support her, we were all in our own private hell. It was so hard to come to terms with the fact that my beautiful, perfect baby girl born 24 years ago had such a miserable life and had literally self destructed.
Several weeks after her death I called in to the drug rehab where Belinda had spent the last couple of months of her life. Along with her meagre effects, I was handed her journals – a partial record of her life during the previous 3 years. That night when I opened one of the journals I was shattered to read one entry that had been written a couple of years previously, during her most successful hospital/drug rehab admittance when she was about 80 days clean of all drugs. Amongst the many daily entries detailing her daily struggle with life and drugs there was a poignant entry detailing the sexual abuse she had been subjected to, by someone trusted by the family, when she was 4-5 years of age. At that very spiritual moment I realised why she had taken her life. How could I have been been so blind- How could I not have known what was going on in my daughter’s life- How could I have missed all the signs- I had trusted this person without question. He had always seemed so fond of all my girls – a father figure in fact. Why had I believed the health professionals when they told me my daughter was mentally ill- Why couldn’t I have seen the extreme anger and pain my daughter was experiencing every day.
I have spent the last 18 months coming to terms with this knowledge. I have had extensive counselling and help from a variety of alternate therapists and friends and come to recognise my own spiritual journey. I have educated myself on sexual abuse, addictions and mental illness. It is my belief that my daughter’s psyche was irreversibly damaged at such a young age by cowardly acts of abuse. Those acts had defined her and she had been unable to see that she was so much more than someone of shame and low self worth. She had never been able to reach anywhere near her potential because she had been so damaged. I believe her brain blocked out these deeds so she could cope but the feelings of shame and pain kept surfacing and she acted out in an attempt to control them. I have recently been told by one of her friends (someone who was also abused and had travelled a similar path) that the memories surfaced when Belinda started using drugs. I can only surmise that she felt she would not have been believed. She could not face that as well as all the other disappointment she felt she had brought on her family. The counsellor who she was under when she wrote the entry said that when he tried to get her to talk about it she would disassociate. He said he believed that about 80% of girls in rehab have been sexually abused. He was unable to get Belinda to talk about it at all, a not uncommon occurrence with sex abuse victims.
On looking back on Belinda’s life I wonder what would have happened if I had recognised why she was so angry and in such pain and despair. Would the medical fraternity have diagnosed her differently- Would society have been kinder- Would I, her mother, been more understanding- Would Belinda have been able to face her demons and find ways such as counselling, the 12 step program, religion, exercise, nutrition, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, massage, reiki, reflexology and acupuncture to repair the damage that was done to her soul. I am sure that when Belinda died she had a chemical imbalance in her brain but I seriously doubt that she had one when she was born.
I know my daughter is in a better place now. Her soul is soaring. My hope is that we as a society stop labelling people whose mind is disordered and feelings are overwhelming because of psychological damage. Let’s start looking for causes and not just treating the effects. We must acknowledge that every person is unique and has their own personality and life history and unless we walk in another’s shoes we cannot judge. We must become empathetic and acknowledge the mind/body connection. We must look for many different strategies and therapies and not just rely on pharmacology. For every person labelled ‘entally ill’ I am sure there is a personal story and their spiritual progress is determined first by their own empowerment and then by finding their own path to healing. Let’s start looking at the relationship between sexual, physical and mental abuse and the onset of so called mental illness in later life. Finally we must learn to love one another and acknowledge that we all have a special place in this world. Until we change our mindset from ‘urvival of the fittest’ to the ‘rotherhood of man’ our world will continue to disenfranchise so many wonderful souls.
I was a 26 year old (female) when I had my first ‘major depressive episode’. Several members of my family suffer from depression and I had had a really stressful job for years. These factors combined with an anxious personality and I became very sick. It took less than a week from being ‘normal’ to being virtually unable to sleep (maybe an hour a night), having no appetite, crying every day and feeling–well unless you have suffered from severe depression it is almost impossible to describe. You cannot feel any positive emotions; you can’t even remember what feeling happy is like. It is certainly worse than any physical pain I have felt or could imagine.
I saw my GP who very quickly recognised my symptoms, and after blood tests ruled other things out, diagnosed depression. My grandfather had committed suicide when my dad was 10 years old and my father had suffered depression for a decade during my childhood. Slowly I began to accept that I too was suffering and that it was serious. I quit my stressful job and returned to my home state so that my family could care for me. I was too ill to look after myself, and scared of what I might do if left on my own.
Thankfully all of my friends and family were very understanding and I received nothing but support from everyone. It was amazing how many people opened up to me about their own experiences with depression, or that of people they knew and loved. People I was very close to told me of depression and of suicides in their own families that they had never mentioned before. It really brought it home to me how sadly common mental illness and suicide are, and how big the ramifications are. When one person is sick, or worse still takes their own life, it is not just the immediate family and friends that are affected, it is generations to come.
I have been very fortunate with the standard of healthcare provided. I was never hospitalised at any stage because my family looked after me. My psychiatrist in my home town went out of his way to help me, seeing me twice a week at first, even if just for 15 minutes at a time. When I was in the acute stages and was desperate for relief, I was impatient and thought that he didn’t understand how badly I felt. I just wanted the medication to fix the problem quickly. I tried about 5-6 different kinds of anti-depressant medication, some of which did absolutely nothing; some gave me awful side effects. I felt like a guinea pig. Finally though, I tried Zoloft, an ‘SSRI’ anti-depressant. After several weeks of taking it I had one day when I actually felt like ‘me’ again. It was the first time in months. Over the next twelve months I recovered slowly. Due to a couple of side effects I have tried several times since to come off my medication (under doctor’s supervision) but every time, after a few weeks, the symptoms return, as nasty as ever. This really drives home the fact that I have an illness that requires medication, just like diabetes or high blood pressure, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. No amount of ‘pulling my socks up’ or ‘looking on the bright side’ will take away my symptoms.
I have learnt many things out of my illness. I have studied Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and as a result my thoughts are much less negative and more realistic than they used to be. I spent time in a support group with other people who suffer from mental illnesses and took comfort in our shared experiences. I have done some studies and now have a job that is less stressful and as a bonus, more interesting than my old job. I ‘manage’ my lifestyle and try not to allow too much stress in. I try to be as kind to myself as I would be to my best friend.
It is so hard when you are really in the depths of a mental illness to imagine that you will ever be well again, hopelessness is in fact considered a symptom of depression. I am living proof though, that if you persist through all the pain, live each moment as it comes and make those adjustments to your life (medication, being kinder to yourself, etc.) then it is possible to enjoy life again.
It was such an extreme day, that I will always remember it. The physical feeling was so intense. Christ , Is this what they mean by Depression.- I remember, later on I tried to put it into words, the feeling I had.
“Imagine your driving in your car and its typical hot summers day, The car has no ac so its hot. The heat is on you. Suddenly you look up and instinctively you brake, your heart is your mouth and fear is on you. You think your going to run into the rear end of the car in front.”
This is how the pain of depression felt at the time. It felt this way a lot On that day, I was in the shower. No one was at home. The pain was terrific. I thought of something and then for the next 10 minutes, the pain got so terrible that, I dropped to the floor and I crawled to phone, desperate for help. I was confused. Maybe I wasnt deling with an emotional situation that had developed, very well. But why would emotional situation cause this pain- I didnt know the answer.
I ended up going to a support group that day for people with emotional problems. They talked about guilt and joined hands and told me that the process of healing could take five years. I had nothing to be guilty about and the thought of another 5 days of this, let alone five years was too horrible to think of.
I went home and lastly in feeble attempt to numb the pain, I reached for the rum. I drank it straight. It burned and tasted awful. I was sick on the carpet.
The vile smell never seemed to come out of the carpet. It was ruined. Thats how depression felt for me back then. I felt this way a lot. It was awful. It certainly was not feeling a bit low, it was extreme, the pain was seering. I use to throw up once a week or sometimes even twice a week. I dropped to 49.5kgs. I now look back on that and see that I was going through something just so horrid it was unbeleivable.
I had my second large Kidney Stone at the time and we all know they are painful. Depression was worse. (The stone caused pain in my front, just under my stomach, so I knew, the agony in my head was not from the stone). The physical pain was bad enough, but you know how people are, they are anti – anti depressants.
I had a pharmasict friend. He felt that I shouldn’t be on medication. My other friend told me that his relative who was in her first year at Uni had said that antidepressants don’t cure depression.
With all this confusion and ‘advice’ and crippling pain, for some reason I stayed with doctors orders. I stayed with the Prozac.
By June that year this pain had dulled down and was passing. God thank goodness for Prozac. Oh yes that sinister 90’s tablet, taken by the media as some kind of silly pick me up for anxious real estate agents and the like. I think it was a good drug, I’d recommend it. Im not trying to plug Eli Lilly but if I had kept feeling that way, there would have been no option.
Dont you think people who commit suicide are not in some gone of agony when they do it- It may not be the agony I describe here, but it must be agony as well. It is difficult to get into words, but here is a photo of me at that time. I ask you, – do I look well-
THE DAY MATTHEW DIED
7th October 2002
Apparently I sound obsessed or whatever they want to say, I used to care and worry what everyone was saying about myself or Mathew after the day I found him HANGING from the roof of the shithole he called home for a little while. I am not sorry for the way I thought or I handled it, or didn’t apparently (I don’t think I have coped as well as I thought looking back now). I tried the hardest not to lose myself in my grief and bring everyone else down especially Tehgan, as she was only 3. But I did hope that people might understand if couldn’t cope with the overwhelming emotions that I could not control. I unregretably loved my brother unconditionally, I was and still am absolutely devastated by the actions and how he went or didn’t go about changing the way he couldn’t cope with life (not trying to sound sorry for myself) but fuck it ripped my heart out after all that I and others did to try to help him and as you probably guess by now I, I think I am angry or maybe just confused by what and how he chose.
I thought after all the love and support I gave him he should have warned me what he was feeling the night 0f 6th October 2002 and instead of misleading not only myself and every one that he was starting a new life, job, home but that he was really starting a new ending (his own) by his own choice and gave no one the chance to help him, see it wasn’t the right one. (Or maybe in our eyes) Or are we just being selfish, his children, mum, dad, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, and all he left behind. I am not sure to what my point is at the moment but all I know is I have promised myself and Mathew I would tell his story one day. I am not sure if today is the day. I just need to do whatever I am doing to keep sain because I feel I am losing whatever grip on this situation I had, maybe it’s just grief.
I want to one day tell a story of an extraordinary person a little weird, in the end but I don’t care his name IS MATHEW REGINALD (REGIE) YOUNG. Sometimes by Mat’s weakness not continue this destructive cruel path he was passing on some strength that he could not find in himself to survive- I don’t know, people would probably lock me up in some whatever because of the way I am talking, thinking but maybe because they are scared to express their true feelings. As Mathew was, I have no bullshit religious beliefs there is no fucken god here to save us, only we can, maybe, from ourselves and other destructive minds and down right cruelness. I don’t know, I am not perfect that’s for sure but I do have a strong need too help others from whatever it may be (self-destruction) but for some reason I have not wanted to believe that my own well being and mind was at harms reach from this kind of nastiest I always thought if I could (help, save others) I could stand up to anything that faced me. But obviously not, I was, am as naïve as every other fuckhead concerned about everyone else instead of myself and who really is important in life.
HEALTH RIGHTS COMMISSION – SUICIDE RELATED COMPLAINTS
9 Year period – received 26th June 2003
Cases involve complaints from family members/friends about the suicide or attempted suicide of persons involving the alleged failure of professionals to communicate with, or involve family or carers. Common themes in the complaints are also:
- the early release of patients who then take their own life;
- an allegedly inadequate assessment made of patients.
A woman with a long history of psychiatric illness and attempted suicide was not regulated at a general hospital despite repeated requests by her carers. The carers were from a supported accommodation service, and had extensive information about her patterns of behaviour. She had been admitted as voluntary patient after two suicide attempts, but later discharged herself and swallowed caustic soda, and was urgently admitted to intensive care at another hospital. She was dangerously ill and her speech and digestion were impaired. She chose the agency to act for her in complaining about negligence, and the agency and hospital agreed on conciliation in an effort to resolve the issues.
A father who made a suicide attempt by overdosing on pills was discharged from hospital while he was still drowsy, without any funds, and without his family’s knowledge. The hospital hadn’t offered him or his family any guidance on further treatment. The hospital apologised for the communication breakdown and offered the family an assurance this would not happen again.
A young woman was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a public hospital, and was discharged after five days when she said she wanted to leave. She then disappeared, except for phone calls from another town, but was then returned by ambulance to the hospital. A family member who spent much time by her bedside was told she had had an ‘ccident’, but she was then discharged again. The same night she committed suicide, and only then did the complainant discover from police that the accident was an earlier suicide attempt. He was sure that, if he had been told, he could have prevented her death. However, the hospital showed that the patient herself had directed that the complainant not be notified, as another relative was closely in touch with her.
A man in his 30’s committed suicide shortly after discharge from the psychiatric unit of a metropolitan hospital. Although his family had been aware of his suicidal tendencies beforehand, they said they were not informed by the unit of the true nature of his illness at the time of discharge, and had therefore not been in a position to take appropriate steps to protect him. Full explanations were offered to the family after interviews with the staff of the unit and examination of the patient file. These explanations had been sought directly from the hospital over a year before, but had not been forthcoming.
A suicidal woman was released twice from a public psychiatric unit despite her family’s concern for her safety. They said the hospital never acknowledged their concern and told them they were regarded as ‘ostile’. After the woman took her own life, it was established the family hadn’t been hostile. It was because the woman had become aggressive with the family (as her condition worsened), that they had been advised not to contact her. The woman had lain dead for a week and was found badly decomposed, compounding the family’s grief. The family wanted answers about what had happened, and access to her medical files, which had been denied them. The unit’s consultant psychiatrist wrote a long and detailed explanation, and they were given access to the file. They were reassured they had not been responsible for her death.
A man made several attempts at suicide. He was hospitalised in a private hospital. The hospital allowed the man to leave on several occasions even though he had previously left suicide notes. The man’s family were concerned he was not regulated under the Mental Health Act and placed under supervision The man left the hospital to go jogging and successfully committed suicide. During investigation it became obvious the man was contracting with the hospital not to self-harm, but was giving different advice to his wife. He was apparently intent on suicide, but on his behaviour at the hospital, no different course of action was indicated. Attempts were being made to engage him a therapeutic relationship. There was some breakdown in communication between the hospital and his wife.
A man said he had attended his doctor because he was distressed and had suicidal thoughts. The doctor arranged a private hospital admission. The man said he had a preference for admittance to a private hospital, as he had private health cover. While a patient of the private hospital the man attempted suicide. After the suicide attempt, the man alleged the hospital appeared to be mostly concerned with the hospital’s legal liability rather than with patient care. The man also said his partner was not told of the suicide attempt and the day following the suicide attempt it was suggested he seek treatment at anther facility of his choice. The man believed he had been treated in an unprofessional and uncaring manner by the hospital. The hospital responded, giving detail about the man’s treatment in hospital. The man accepted this response and the complaint was subsequently closed.
A woman said that her husband was admitted to a public hospital in January and August after attempting to commit suicide. She spoke at length with a nurse on staff during the August admission, advising that her husband had threatened to commit suicide once he was released from the hospital. She asked the nurse to tell the doctors to call her prior to her husband’s release. Her husband was subsequently released and committed suicide following his release, without the wife being advised. The woman said she was seeking compensation for her loss and suffering. The hospital replied that the man had a history of attempted suicide, but by the end of his most recent admission and treatment did not demonstrate any suicidal ideation. The hospital claimed that on admission the man’s history and life stressors were thoroughly assessed by a consultant psychiatrist, and he was diagnosed with reactive depression with recognisable stressors. The hospital said that the man claimed that he was glad his recent suicide attempt had failed, and no longer thought of self-harm. Since admission there had been no further evidence of sustained depressed mood or underlying psychiatric disorder. Individual counselling was identified as the appropriate treatment to develop strategies for dealing with the stressors, and a short admission was planned, as the man was keen to be discharged. The hospital said that the medical records reveal that the man’s wife had telephoned and expressed concern at his condition. The psychiatric registrar then interviewed him. At this interview the man denied any plans for self-harm. After the man’s discharge, the hospital received a phone call from the man’s friend stating that the man had said he fooled the hospital staff and intended to commit suicide. The complaint was referred to conciliation and fully explored.
A man was admitted to a public hospital psychiatric unit for his own protection after threatening suicide. The man’s mother complained that he had absconded from the hospital and was found dead later that day. The mother complained that her son committed suicide n the day he was being discharged and that the hospital should have been aware his suicide threats were genuine. The mother stated she had requested the hospital not release her son so soon. Also, according to the mother, it took 5 hours for the family to be notified of her son’s death even though there was identification on him. The mother complained that she was contacted by another public hospital requesting donation of her son’s body parts within minutes of her being advised of his death. The mother complained this hospital knew of her son’s death before the family.
A young woman committed suicide after being discharged from a public hospital’s mental health clinic. She had spent the last 3 years in and out of psychiatric hospitals and clinics and had attempted suicide previously on 5 occasions. The family of the young woman tried repeatedly to have her admitted for her safety and care. After she was admitted the young woman begged not to be discharged, but she was. At the time she committed suicide she was a regulated patient. The hospital provided the outpatient progress notes and details of the assessment undertaken. Systemic question were investigated.
A woman complained that her male cousin in psychiatric ward of a public hospital was able to leave unobserved. The woman said that the man’s son had gone to visit the man but was told that his father could have been out taking a walk. The son waited for more that half an hour and did not see his father. The man had in fact absconded and committed suicide. The woman said that she was told that he was placed under 15-minute observations. The family believed they were not consulted during treatment. The woman wanted to know how a patient who was supposed to be on regular observations could leave the hospital unnoticed and why they were not included in treatment decisions. The family had a history of suicides.
A woman said her 19-year-old son was being treated by a public mental health service for depression and psychosis. She said her son was a confessed substance abuser. She claimed the medication prescribed by psychiatrists worsened her son’s mental state. She said the hospital staff would not listen to her and did not accept her view of his need for follow up care. She believes listening to her could have avoided his taking his life.
The relatives of an indigenous boy complained that staff at a public mental health inpatient service neglected the care for the boy. The boy had a history of absconding from the unit and self-harming but when the boy was transferred from a closed ward to an open ward, the family were not notified and the boy absconded and committed suicide. The relative outlined the lack of cultural sensitivity by the staff, which they believed ultimately contributed to the boy’s death. The Minister requested the Commission investigate the matter and the communication issues were reviewed.
A woman complained a psychiatrist failed to advise her of her adult son’s condition. The woman explained she was the carer for her son who had epilepsy. She said her son saw the psychiatrist for deteriorating mental health. The woman said she tried to assist the psychiatrist by advising of her son’s behaviour at home. However, the psychiatrist would not tell her about her son’s condition so she could provide adequate support. The woman said she witnessed her son commit suicide and felt the doctor had failed to advise her of this risk. She felt that the doctor had contributed to this outcome by not involving family support. The woman said she would like to see confidentiality laws reviewed when risk factors were involved. The complaint was out of time and no action was possible.
The parents of a man who committed suicide stated that their son had been in the care of a psychiatric unit of a public hospital at the time. They said that during his admission he had been labelled ‘acutely suicidal’ and closely guarded for nine days. The parents stated that at the end of the nine days he was placed into an open ward and one week later he walked out and hung himself at a nearby football stand. They said that one of their main difficulties had been trying to communicate with staff who should have recognised and tapped into their intimate knowledge of their son. The parents did not know how the decision to move him onto an open ward ‘ecause he had improved’ had been reached. The parents concerns at the time were addressed by staff making reference to the fact that their son was regularly reviewed and he gave the impression that he was improving with no risk of self-harm. The parents viewed the records and believed their concerns were not recorded and should have been to be discussed with the doctor. The Commission recommended that the hospital bring this issue to the attention of all medical and nursing staff, so as to ensure that appropriate observations from family and close friends are recorded in the medical records in future. The complaint was closed.
A man said that his son was admitted as a restricted patient to an acute psychiatric unit at a public hospital by police following a violent episode at home. The man said that the hospital psychiatrist was supposed to call the father prior to his son being released, but that this was not done. The man complained that as a result, his son spent the next four days driving around in a paranoid state before contacting family who picked him up. In addition, the man said that the next day his son was again taken to the same hospital by police for suicidal and violent behaviour, but was refused admittance. He said his son left home a few days later and ended up in another State where he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, detained and diagnosed with severe paranoia. The Commission arranged for the parents to meet with personnel from the mental health service to discuss their concerns, which satisfied the complainant and the complaint was closed.
A woman said a public hospital failed to admit her adult son who had been diagnosed with severe clinical depression. She said the hospital was also made aware that her son was suicidal but the hospital chose to refer her son to a community mental health unit for treatment even though he was severely depressed and suicidal. The woman said her son committed suicide three weeks later at home. Both the provider and complainant agreed to participate in conciliation.
A woman said her 18-year-old son committed suicide 4 months after being assessed at a public hospital. She said the hospital did not spend enough time assessing her son before he was released as he was only kept there for a short time and not admitted. She said that he was found to be suffering from anger management problems made worse by drugs and alcohol which was not an appropriate diagnosis. She said the hospital disregarded what she and her husband told them about his long history of suicide threats, aggression and depression. She also believed that she and her husband should have been given information about suicide prevention or referral agencies. The hospital said thorough assessments were conducted by a nurse and doctor in the Accident and Emergency Department and by a psychiatric registrar. It was stated that the man told two different staff members he was not suicidal. The man was found to be suffering from anger management problems and was given information about relevant courses and referral agencies. It was noted that it had been four months between the hospital’s assessment and the man’s suicide and that the hospital had not seen him again in that time. The family’s distress at the loss of their son’s loss was acknowledged.
An independent opinion was received from a psychiatrist who believed the hospital’s assessment of the man had been reasonable based on his presentation that evening. The lengthy time between the assessment and the suicide was noted. It was acknowledged that it was often difficult to accurately predict whether a patient was serious about suicide threats or to predict when an attempt may be made. It was also noted that it was difficult to weigh the information given by the patient against what may be conflicting information given about a patient’s state of mind given by the parents/carers. Confidentiality was an important factor to be considered. The opinion and response were discussed with the woman who was very distressed as she believed the information given by families did not carry sufficient weight during the assessment of patients.
SUICIDE – THE STORY OF A SURVIVOR
By Desiree Alan
(1) In Australia, 1 person in every 4 hours attempts suicide. On 19 June 1990, I was one of them. I woke this particular morning to see light coming through my bedroom curtain window. I pulled the blankets up over my head. I did not want to live another day in this world. I told myself that I am really going to do it. I will die today.
I lay in bed until I heard my flat mate leave. I got up to pack all my belongings into my two bags, all that I owned in my life. I did all this as if I was in some kind of trance. I found a piece of paper and thought it was best to leave a suicide note, just details of how my parents could be notified and where by belongings could be forwarded. I then went into my flat mate’s wardrobe where I knew he had his rifle waiting for me. I took it to the bathroom and lent it on the sink vanity. I kept on telling myself you have to do this. Nobody loves you and it would be great to meet up with Corrina, my older sister who had committed suicide only 3 years ago. I was a nervous wreck by this stage so just to relax myself I went to where the liquor was. What ever it was it was very potent and along with my negative thinking of wanting to kill myself, I can only remember walking down the hallway to the bathroom. The rest is a blur but I know I held that rifle to my head and shot myself thinking I would never see this world or be in it again. But I am here, however I cannot see it, smell it or taste it. However I am very glad to be alive today.
This suicide attempt of mine did not just happen over night. It was happening over many months of losing my self-esteem and confidence and of feeling rejected. Having just moved into a new city and making a few key friends had been great. At first I had been very excited and loving my new life in Surfers Paradise. After many months of holidaying and spending all my money reality set in. I needed to find employment. After all the interviews, questions and rejections I was unable to get a simple job. My positiveness was burned out. Months went by and I felt inadequate and I had no confidence within myself. I started to withdraw from my friends, as I did not want them to see this ugly side to me. I didn’t have the spark and happiness I always had. I did not like this deflated person that I had become. Therefore I bottled up all my emotions and feelings thinking that nobody cared. A lot of negative input was happening which was driving me crazy. At this stage of my life I was now facing depression, the lowest of lows and I did not know that I was very mentally sick. It was a very scary feeling getting dragged into the black hole. I was no longer in control of my life.
After all the good nurses and doctors saved my life they found out with a number of blood tests that I have Bipolar Mental Disorder. It is a chemical imbalance of the brain. If I had only opened my eyes and sought help. I could have been put right with just taking some lithium tablets each day. It would have made my severe mood swing more level. Now when I remember the last three years of my life there were series of hyperactivity and fewer depressions. We can all make it through the bad times if only we think right.
(2) I was in intensive care on a life support system and after three week of being unconscious, I came to. I heard the male voice of my doctor tell me that the damage to my eyes was severe and I would never see again. Those words hit me so badly. I’m alive. I did not succeed. I wanted more than ever to be dead. These things happen for reasons–I knew that it was not going to be an easy ride to rehabilitation when they discharged me from the Gold Coast Hospital and transferred me to the Princess Alexandra Hospital to the Head Injury Dept. This was where all my rehabilitation work would be done, road to recovery. I felt lonely and isolated in my new dark world, not knowing anyone in Brisbane to come and even visit me made it worse. In these next 2 months of being hospitalised I had too much time to think lying on my bed. The endless questions of what am I going to do with my life now- Where am I going to live- Who will employ me- It all seemed so negative. With my arms out stretched I would find my doorway and venture out to the long corridor. I would stop and listen. What I heard in this Head Injury Dept. shook me up and really made me take a look at myself. I could hear wheel chairs going past, a person on crutches and even people trying to make conversation by yelling. They could not communicate as they had head injuries. That’s when I said to myself ‘esiree you are only blind, with no sense of smell or taste. You have two good arms, two good legs and you can walk. Why not just go and show the world that you can do it and make a life out of what you have. You are so lucky not to have brain damage and you can do it.’ One of life’s’ most difficult decisions is deciding which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn. I knew I was then and now ready to cross many new bridges with a new zest in life and I wanted to burn all my negative thoughts and turn them around to positives ones. With that important decision I felt stronger that ever in my new blind life, no more suicidal thoughts. My medication was working.
What has worked for me throughout my ordeal was having a dear friend and now love of my life called Clayton to visit me and feed me with his positiveness. He would take the time for me to go out for day trips out of hospital to break me in so as to speak, with the real world because I was unable to see or even smell the atmosphere. He is still with me to this day and I love him. I have always made the time to listen to motivational tapes to pick my thinking up. I have grown in so many ways with all the tapes I’ve listened to. It’s a must. I then learned the power of exercise and what it has done for me mentally and physically. I did not want to become a big fat blind blimp, knowing that if I did not do some type of exercise I would. I discovered a gym in January of 2001 called the ‘porting Wheelies’, a fantastic gym for disabled persons. I still go now, twice a week religiously. To work off my tensions and pressures of day to day life is taken away from working out at my gym for an hour and a half. It’s like a natural high. I have now discovered what endorphin’s are. Only with exercise will you know what they do. You fee on top of the world and that’s where I prefer to be nowadays. To compete in judo tournaments mean everything to me. It’s a great challenge to be up there and to fight what I used to have, sighted judo players. I train long and hard for both swimming and judo but what it has taught me that I am not handicapped but handicapable. I am determined to some day represent Australia in swimming or judo, perhaps both. Just by thinking right we all can pull ourselves out of a rut, face challenges like I have and jump over all those obstacles that seem to be staring us in the face. I have found that setting myself goals in life and to aim high in what I do works for me. With my love of judo I am determined to get my black belt. I do not wish to start something and not finish properly. My goal to make the para Olympic swimming team is great. These two goals of mine are the greatest in my life at the moment and by working towards my goals every day in training it makes every day a wonderful day to be in.
(3) There are tell tale signs we should look for in a person that is contemplating suicide. If all of a sudden they drop out of their social circle of friends, their confidence is lacking. They may seem to be nervous and not able to make eye contact with the other person or they find it hard to hold a conversation. They may suddenly gain or drop weight. They are only a few of the major symptoms of feeling terribly low with oneself and are a cry for help. A nice friendly way to approach a friend or person you know in this type of situation to help would be to talk to them easily and friendly and to suggest they may see a doctor or a welfare officer to talk their way through their problem. I found the best way for me was to speak to a psychiatrist to release myself – uncork my bottle so as to speak. We all need a person to talk to at these desperate times in our lives before it’s too late. Do not ignore your daughter, son or loved one at their crucial time of life. They may seem very within themselves and very distant but depression however deep set will not just erase itself. We need to persist in every way to these people to show them that they do have a purpose in life and we do love and care for them. By buying him or her motivational books or tapes to listen to will be a great help to lift their thinking just a bit more. Get them out to see some of the beauty in nature like the beach or park, to fill their lungs with fresh air. Slowly that dark cloud will disappear with time and perseverance. Nothing is worth suicide.
I have written a book called ‘y Life in the Dark’. It comes from the heart and deals with not knowing and not wanting to accept that I was mentally ill. I share all the days where I wanted to take my life but did not succeed. I thank God for that now. I write of how I had to reconstruct my new life being blind and to make it a positive and more fulfilling life. By listening to motivational tapes and my love of sport have really helped my zest for life. I hope my book will help some of you as it has helped me by sharing it with you.
I leave you with my favorite saying by Winston Churchill. ‘never give up.’
AARON JUSTIN FALLAND “AZZA”
21/04/88 – 02/10/03
Aged 15 years
My name is Kirsty and I first met Aaron about two and a half years ago through his big brother. I have been a close friend of the family ever since.
The night that Aaron took his own life he seemed so happy. He was singing, dancing and having a good time with all of us, he was being himself! That night when Aaron left my house, I never thought I would get a pho e call telling me that he was dead–.
All that was going through my head was – if only he had talked to someone, if only he gave some sort of sign, if only I had made him stay the night–. But he didn’t. I have to stop thinking about the `if onlys’ because all the `if onlys’ in the world are never going to change what happened and bring him back. I never want to go through this again, it has been the hardest and most heartbreaking experience to go through. I find myself sad, angry, crying, smiling all at the same time. The hardest thing is always wondering why-
I miss him so much and want him to come back but that is never going to happen. Once you take your own life, it is forever, no coming back! And that’s what we all have to live with when losing the people we love!
AARON JUSTIN FALLAND “AZZA”
21/04/88 – 02/10/03
Aged 15 years
My name is Deb and on the 2 October 2003 my 15 year old son took his own life. Aaron was such a beautiful, loving, happy, caring kid – my baby boy. His smile and laughter would light up any room. I’m not sure of how much of my story I can share just yet. The sadness I feel is immense. I don’t sleep the same anymore and have to push myself constantly to remain busy.
I relieve that tragic morning each and every day. I cry so much and ache from the pain in my heart. I miss him, I love him – and would give the world to hold him one more time. I know that he is with me at home; he is with me in everything that I do. If I could say my son’s untimely death has shown or taught me anything, it would be that without the love and support of so many friends and family members, out journey over the last seven months would have been even more unbearable than it has been, and I’m not sure I would have made it this far. We are so grateful to be surrounded by so much love, kindness and friendship.
I have learnt that each moment of each day is precious. Those around us that we love and care for are our strength when we feel at our weakest. And to each and every one of you I thank you all so very much.
My husband was 56 when on 26 April 2003 my eldest daughter found him hanging in the shed behind our small store.
We briefly encountered the demons of depression in 1992 when Ian was treated badly in a business deal. He always thought a man’s word was his bond, the same with a handshake. But it wasn’t. He received counselling and we made it through. Though no one actually told us he had depression, I know that I didn’t know. How naive was I- I had never encountered it before.
Ten years later towards the end of 2002 Ian’s nerve deafness gradually started to become worse. He so badly wanted it corrected with the help of new technology in hearing aids, so he could hear everything at our daughters wedding in Feb 2003. Unfortunately it didn’t happen and all our expectations went out the door. For the first time since 1992 I could see him slipping away from me. For 2 weeks he withdrew from his friends, this wasn’t the happy, confident man I loved. Again it passed.
One our daughter’s wedding day it was a wonderful day, he said it was one of the best days of his life. As well as all this happening, we also were having trouble in our workplace. This incident was the final straw for Ian. Again he trusted someone, and again it backfired. No wonder I’m so cynical these days.
Ian’s first attempt at hanging was the day before Good Friday 2003, it was at work and the rope broke. He fell to the ground distraught and absolutely humiliated and ashamed that he could do this to his family. He said, “I love you all so much, how could I do this to you-” He could not remember the attempt nor feel the rope burn around his neck.
On being admitted to hospital for 48 hours I discovered Ian’s doctor knew he had suicidal tendencies, as he was advised of this by a psychologist who saw Ian only 4 days before. Yet nothing was done to advise Ian of this fact. Lack of duty of care as far as I’m concerned.
A week after the failed attempt he was successful, again at our shop. Like lots of people, I complained profusely about lack of follow up care for Ian. No-one to my knowledge rang him to check on his welfare, I was told nothing, about who to call should I need help, but then I suppose I shouldn’t find that totally surprising!!
The weekend Ian died, there were also 3 other hangings in our area. Maybe the tragedy of suicide has to affect those in control of our health system, before they really take it seriously.
CHRISTOPHER PAUL GILSON
24/04/80 – 18/10/03
Aged 23 years
The one thing that touched me the most about my mate was the fact that no matter what, he always had time for his friends and family. I would feel like having a slack day and chuck a sickie from work and it didn’t matter what time it was, I could him ring him up and he would always say, “sounds good, come round”. Even if he would have to work he would stay home as well just so we could spend time as mates. It didn’t matter if he got into trouble, he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “shit happens”.
One day I remember I rang him at about six in the morning and went around to his place. All we did for that day was ride around on his scooter and play playstation. We must have had fun because the smile didn’t leave his face all day–.And he had the cheekiest smile–like he was always up to something.
He joined the Navy and he proved again that he always had time for his mates and family–
I will tell you the story (to the best of my ability). He was based in Sydney and had a course to do in Canberra. Of course they got a Government car and the only thing that their Sargent or Captain said was “you go to the course in Canberra and back here to where you are staying–That’s it”. So they headed off to Canberra and about half way there–Chris said to his offsider, “Do you want to go to Mount Gambier-“
His offsider agreed and off they headed for the long journey home. When they got there Chris spent a bit of time with his family and friends and drove back with about 2 hours to spare.
When the Captain walked in that fine day he pulled my mate and partner in crime to the side and said, “Excuse me boys didn’t I tell you to go only to the course and straight back here-” They replied, “We did!” and he said, “Well how do you explain the extra 4500kms on the clock-” “Well we did a bit of sight seeing, and Canberra is a big place”. “Oh yeah, fair enough, but can you explain the McDonald’s receipt from Mount Gambier on the back seat of the car”. Once this was said they were busted. But this gets my point across. Even though they knew they would get into trouble (they copped a $500 fine and 12 or something days in chooks) he travelled all this way just to see his family and friends for a few hours. Now that’s what I call a mate.
! will always love you buddy, you are in my heart forever and I will try and look after your family now that you are gone–But I couldn’t do anywhere near as good a job as you did–
18/03/1967 – 29/04/2002
Aged 35 years.
Where to start, where to begin–My son, my stepson, Darren, took his life 13 months ago. The story ends there but starts many years earlier.
Darren was born 18 March 1967 and grew up with his father and brother, Randy. After some upheavals in his earlier life, I came to the family 27 years ago and married Darren’s father Ken twenty-five and a half years ago. I helped raise Darren from age ten and throughout his teenage years and into adulthood.
Darren was not a great scholar and left school in year 10 to enter the work force. He enjoyed being in the Naval Cadets and his greatest passion was BMX bicycle riding. Even when Darren passed away he still had a BMX bike. We believe that Darren had his first episode of Schizophrenia at the age of 16, but it was many years and many hospital visits later, both here and in Adelaide, that he was finally diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. That was 12 years before he died–
Darren abused illicit drugs including Marijuana and many others; he even abused the medication he had for his mental illness. Darren began to realise that he needed his medication even though he hated taking it–he also hated going to hospital to get the balance of his medication right. As with most sufferers of mental illness once they leave hospital they believe they are better so they don’t continue to take their medication. Darren was no different and because of this the vicious circle of hospitalisation and trips home began–.
Five years before Darren died he moved toAdelaide, where, after several visits to hospital he found that with the support of a group called Metro Access, he was able to move from supported accommodation – where everything was done for him, to living independently in his own unit.
The Mental Health Nurse visited daily to make sure Darren was taking his medication and once or twice a week the social worker would help Darren with organising his household chores, shopping and anything else Darren wanted to do.
With the support of these wonderful people in Adelaide to whom we are very grateful, we were given five more years with Darren. Even though Darren had the support of these professional people, they didn’t see his intention to take his own life. They were as devastated as we have been–.
Through all the years of Darren’s illness and hospitalisation, he knew in his heart that he had the support and love of all his family. His mother and father, his step parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles and the rest of his family.
On the 29 April 2002, close to midnight, Darren took his own life. He died alone. He was 35 years old–
I will read a poem that Darren had written which shows to us why he died:
Don’t think that I can’t feel,
There will be a storm tonight,
But we will be safe,
Just don’t close the door for that chapter will be over,
Just say what’s on your mind,
Just think about what you do,
Just don’t close the door or it will be over.
With Darren’s mental illness he lived in two worlds, our real and rational world, and the world in his mind created by the Schizophrenia.
By closing the door to his unit he closed the chapter on the world we know and went to the world in his mind– We hold on to the fact that Darren is now happy and not living a tormented life anymore–
CHRISTOPHER PAUL GIBSON
24/04/80 – 18/10/03
Aged 23 years
My one and only son. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you. The tears I still cannot stop. I dream of the days when your smiles and laughter could be heard throughout the house. I long for the hugs you gave me, and those words, “Love you mum”.
My heart was broken the day you did not come home. Why, why can’t I find an answer- Only you can answer that.
Chris grew up in Adelaide, moved to Mount Gambier in 1997 and was a chef at the Commercial and Bellum hotels. Many people love and continue to love Chris, not only his friends and family but also the people he worked for. Chris’ smiles, laughter and antics were second to none. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 2000 and everyone was so proud of him. Chris conquered many hurdles to achieve his acceptance into the Navy, but he did it with pride.
Even the Navy saw him, in their words, as the “Lovable Larrikin”.
Chris was coming home on leave for a week before going to the Gulf on HMAS Melbourne.
HE NEVER MADE IT HOME.
FINDING THE LINK BETWEEN SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE AND MENTAL ILLNESS.
A Personal Journey by Pam Burke
Like everyone else on this planet my life experiences have placed me in my own unique place. At this point of my life I am shaped by my personality, my DNA (my inheritance from my ancestors), the environment in which I have lived and the people I have met and interacted with along the way.
My mother experienced so called “psychotic” episodes in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father. My mother was treated several times in psychiatric hospitals with shock treatment over the next twenty years. By the end of her full life of seventy-four years she had become a very spiritually aware woman who had come to see her psychiatric illness as a blessing in disguise. She became aware of the spiritual element in her life and was able to use it to see the steps she needed to take to get her life on track. I must stress here that by spiritual I do not mean religious. I mean the inner “knowing” that you have God’s inner wisdom within and there are means to access this wisdom.
My sister experienced her so-called “psychotic” episode after the birth of her daughter sixteen years ago. Although my mother tried to impart what she had learned my sister who was extremely mentally, emotionally and spiritually confused took the advice of the rest of the family and her doctors and started taking psychiatric medication. Sixteen years later after several suicide attempts and many psychiatric admittances her thinking is still clouded in a haze of medication. Her progress has been slow although I do acknowledge her right to do it her way.
My middle daughter started having her first so called “psychotic” episodes after becoming heavily involved in illegal drug use seven years ago. She had been sexually abused as a child (about five years old) and had been unable to tell anyone or deal with it in any way. Consequently her life started going out of control almost immediately. As her mother I could make no sense of her erratic behaviour and when it had finally spiralled out of control when she was fifteen, I took her to her first psychiatrist after her first of many suicide attempts. Six years of psychiatric medication followed, combined with a marijuana habit she had developed at age twelve. At twenty-one she became involved in the drug scene and a horrendous emotional, mental and spiritual journey commenced for her and her family. Over the following three years she had twenty psychiatric admittances and three stints in drug rehab. At age twenty-four at a stage of utter hopelessness she stood in front of a train at Kuraby station.
Two years before her death I also experienced my first so-called “psychotic” episode following the stress of my daughters condition. I was fifty years of age. Because I had seen several different ways of dealing with this indescribable fear phenomena of “psychosis” I steered clear of drug treatment. I tried psychotherapy, counselling and acupuncture. I know now that I was spiritually lead down that path and am most grateful for that. Over the past six years I have dealt with the tragic death of my darling daughter and the betrayal of my best friend’s husband who had sexually abused my daughter. I have come to terms with the disbelief of my family and friends of the cause of my daughter’s distress. My husband and I also raise the one-year-old grand daughter my daughter left behind. I have been able to accept my daughter’s journey and forgive the man who betrayed my daughter. I have reached a deep understanding about sexual abuse. I have re established loving ties with my family (after much continuing angst). I am blessed daily with the knowledge I am raising my daughter’s child so she can live the life my daughter was unable to live.
How has this happened?
My “psychotic” episode was my awakening. My sheer terror opened the channels of spiritual awareness. My feeling is that many people are born spiritually aware and many are not. Many religious people are not necessarily spiritual. It is very difficult to understand the opposite position. I have experienced both – just like most people in psychiatric hospitals diagnosed as “schizophrenic” or “manic-depressive”. For fifty years I was an intellectual sceptic. No one could have convinced me of a higher power with just words. The time of my awakening was horrendous. I had no knowledge of what was happening to me. As well as spiritual “knowing” my ego and personality went into overdrive and I nearly went crazy. I am most grateful for my mother’s experience, my sister’s experience and my daughter’s experiences. I learned from them all. I now have a “knowing” that we are all here for a reason and we continue to exist in some form after death. Gary Zukov says in his book that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and this also is my belief. I have had many beautiful experiences since my daughter died but only because I know it is possible and I am open to the experience. I know she is where she wants to be and she is pleased I was able to discover why her life careered out of control and why she took her life. I continue to have a relationship with her even though she is deceased just like I do with all the others in my life who have predeceased me. I know that to be the best we can be and achieve what we need to achieve on earth we must be loving, compassionate, forgiving, authentic and balanced. To access the wisdom of the planet you need to be healthy mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually and what a challenge that is for every one of us. There are many good people out there who are not spiritually aware who lead exemplary lives and there are many out there who are spiritually aware who lead destructive lives. A balanced life is the key and what I strive for. I see so many living their lives habitually and not seeing the big picture. I know because I was one of them and continue to be to a large degree.
I feel particular empathy with those like my sister labouring under the misdiagnosis of mental illness rather than spiritual awakening. So many of our brightest and wise are made to feel they have nothing to offer their world because they are told they are sick. I feel depression is a normal reaction for human beings when their lives are not in tune with their spiritual direction. These are people who are becoming aware of their feelings and it is by being aware of our feelings we can make better decisions in our life. I believe that is why depression is becoming endemic in our societies. Lots of people who have healthy egos would not know what it is to be depressed. Our culture promotes success, money, possessions and happiness. Those who are not achieving this believe they are failures. I know I am not alone in being able to see how much better our world would be if we could all see the hand of God working amongst us. However this is not how it is at present. It is my wish that those of us who have been awakened could find a way to help those who at this time of our evolution are being lead in the wrong direction by those who through no fault of their own cannot yet see Gods magnificence.
Mental illness is confused thinking. Who wouldn’t be confused if you were told that instead of accessing a special awareness or intuition you were actually deranged- I have been made to feel quite mad at times of my greatest experiences and awareness’s. Because of our own individual personality and our life experiences we view spiritual awareness in our own unique way. No two ways are the same. Needless to say proving a spiritual experience scientifically is impossible. We have come to think that if something cannot be proven scientifically it is not true. How can someone’s individual “knowing” be proven- Consequently although we are all being subjected to spiritual experience constantly most people dismiss it or can’t see it. I know I miss many experiences and my personality and ego constantly distort many of the experiences I do have. However each day things become clearer and my life changes for the better. I know that if I continue on this journey, I will be able to cope with whatever life throws at me in a far more effective manner. I know that I have made only minute inroads into this subject but hopefully more and more are also making the same inroads and together we can achieve a level of improvement in the lives of our most disadvantaged and tap into their undoubted wisdom.
A FATHER’S STORY
Until the night of 29th March 1993 I had no knowledge or experience of mental illness and not the slightest inkling that my eldest son, Jason, was suffering a depressive illness. There had been behaviours on occasions that had caused concern, but were easily dismissed as within the boundaries of sometimes-difficult teenage behaviour.
I recall vividly the late night dash I made to the unit in which my eldest son had been living with his girl friend prior to their break up. I had earlier spent the evening with one of his brothers searching unsuccessfully for him after a friend had phoned and expressed great concern about his behaviour over the preceding few days. My frantic dash was triggered by a call from my ex-wife who had just spoken to Jason on the phone and was gravely alarmed at the content of the call and his demeanour.
I arrived just in time to see Jason collapse and begin convulsing as a result of a massive overdose of prescribed medication. I then struggled desperately to keep Jason alive, with barely remembered CPR, until the MICA paramedics arrived.
It was a close call, but Jason survived that night and 2 days later was transferred to the Psychiatry Department of a major Public Hospital.
The next 8 days were enormously disorienting and exhausting.
Within 24 hours of arrival at the Psychiatry Department, Jason was discharged without either of his parents being advised that this was to happen, and a visitor coerced into taking responsibility for him. The same visitor had reported to a Psychiatric Registrar that Jason had told him that he was going to `con the shrink, get out and do it again’. Despite this, the discharge proceeded.
Within a few hours, Jason had become distressed after visiting his ex-girlfriend and had attempted to ram an oncoming vehicle on a major road. Fortunately his visitor had stayed with him and prevented a tragedy. He contacted me immediately and together we were able, after several hours, to persuade Jason to accompany us back to the hospital.
These events were described in detail to hospital staff when Jason was re-admitted and I felt sure they were sufficiently serious to ensure Jason remained in hospital until his crisis was resolved.
This was not the case. A few days later Jason simply walked out of the hospital one evening and consumed a quantity of alcohol while absent. He was reported missing and police notified.
Jason was actually making his way back to the hospital when he was bashed to the point of being knocked unconscious and robbed by unknown assailants. When police arrived he was in an agitated state and they conveyed him back to the hospital.
He was settled when returned to the Psychiatry Department but became agitated again when staff would not take his account of being assaulted seriously. Staff responded by grappling with him and attempting to inject him with haloperidol, a major tranquiliser.
When he broke free staff simply watched while he left the ward at approximately 3:15am in an agitated state. Their only response was to go to a computer terminal and discharged him.
Shortly after this I received a reverse charges call from a public phone box near the hospital. Jason was sobbing and was in a very distressed state. Accompanied by his brother I raced to the hospital and we located him. He was reluctant to return to the hospital after his treatment there and it took several hours, with the assistance of police who had earlier apprehended him before he could be persuaded to return to the hospital.
The hospital re-admission procedure took many hours and in an assessment carried out by a nurse and a Psychiatric Registrar, Jason stated that he `still wished to die’ and that he `felt safe in the hospital but did not trust himself outside not to act on his impulses’. This was recorded in his medical history although later, at his inquest, denied by the Psychiatric Registrar.
Two days later, the same Psychiatric Registrar allowed Jason to be discharged at his request. Next of kin, who would be expected to look after him, were not contacted at the time or subsequently. No advice as to his diagnosis, how to care for him, danger signs to look for or any such information was ever provided. Had it not been for the fact that his 16-year-old brother, a female school friend and his 20-year-old female cousin, visited Jason at the time, he would have left unaccompanied.
For the next 24 hours all concerned felt an enormous tension in Jason’s presence. We were dismayed that he was clearly not well but had been discharged. How could we have him readmitted to hospital without some quite specific grounds for concern- We felt powerless and tried as best we could to not upset him. Were we better informed we would have possibly recognised some of the subtle indications of impending suicide such as the giving away of prized possessions.
Jason left his mother’s home in the evening saying he was going to visit a friend. Within minutes his youngest brother, just 14 at the time discovered his suicide note. Police were immediately contacted and they began an intensive search including the use of the police helicopter. Jason’s mother phoned me and I got her to read the note to me very carefully in case it contained any clue as to where he might have gone. The clue was there but it was misunderstood at the time and he went to a place just outside the search area. I phoned Jason’s friend and asked to be contacted if Jason arrived and for him to restrain Jason if necessary.
Jason had also discovered where his mother had hidden his medication and it was missing. But how much- Was there a lethal dose- My mind raced as I tried to collect the information and do the calculations.
Inevitably the dreaded call came. A young man, believed to be Jason, had been attended by ambulance and police and was dead.
I was so numb with grief and shock and had to be driven to the scene, arriving just as the undertaker was removing my son’s body. He had again used an overdose of prescribed medication and, with what I had witnessed just 11 days earlier, I could picture his death. To this day that scene returns to haunt me, what I experienced on 29th March merged in my mind with the location of his death on 9th April.
When approached to give consent to Jason being a tissue donor, his mother and I readily assented; seeking to salvage some good from this tragedy and knowing it would be what he wanted. Even in this we were thwarted as the tissue, heart valves and corneas, could not be used, as Jason had a minor infection from when tubes were inserted into his arm following his initial suicide attempt.
A Melbourne Coroner, handing down her findings in late 1994, found nothing of concern in any of this.
This is my personal story. I am 60-years-old and my baby sister was 53. She died last month when she hung herself on an oak tree outside the back door of her home. She lived next door to my parents’ home and my oldest sister lived on the other side. My brother and I lived on our farms about 10 miles away. My brother died in a plane crash five years ago.
I blame my baby sister’s death on doctors who prescribed her pain medicine for several years after she had neck surgery.
She was given 40mg of morphine three times a day and Zanxes for the two years. Last year her doctors took her totally off pain medicine. They should have known you cannot suddenly take a person off these medicines without the patient having serious, even fatal, side-effects.
To help you understand my story I will give you some information on how we were raised.
I consider my mother and father are perfect parents. My mother is a housewife, my father a retired Baptist minister. They are 86-years-old and still enjoy living on their farm.
They are both more important to me than they will ever know. I cherish each and every day I hear their voices.
When we were children they made sure we had everything we wanted. When we ate our meals we would all sit together and say grace over our blessings. We were truly blessed with a complete family. I had an older brother and two sisters.
We all graduated from our local high school, all got married and raised our families’ close by. There had never been any drugs, other than prescription medicine from our doctors.
Back in the early 80s I was assaulted by a retired man who was employed by my husband and I doing odd jobs around the home.
One morning, after my husband had left for work, the man turned up at our front door wanting to do his odd jobs.
As I stepped outside the door I noticed he was drunk and asked him to come back later when my husband was home.
He pushed me aside and brushed past me saying he wanted to make a phone call. I told him to get out, but he grabbed the phone, knocked me down and used his knee to press my head on the floor and began ripping my clothes off.
I felt the phone next to me on the floor and pressed what I believed was the 0 button for the operator and screamed my name and address repeatedly until the police came just in time to keep me from being raped.
That was when my nightmares began. I needed help to understand why this horrible experienced happened to me. My husband took me to a doctor and he prescribed Prozac and 5mg of Valium.
This was the beginning of my life changing. I would spend the next three decades in a totally different frame of mind, with the drugs giving me suicidal thoughts.
After my first suicide attempt in the 1980s, when I overdosed by taking all my sleeping pills at once, I was admitted to a psychiatric ward.
After staying there for a couple of weeks the doctors changed my medicine to even stronger depression medicine.
Ten years passed and I could not remember why I got into such a deep depression and was having suicidal thoughts.
I had no reason to be depressed, had a perfect husband and all the things a wife could ever dream of.
I did not want to be around anyone, slept most of the day and nights and had no interest in or cared about anything or anyone. I could not remember important facts of my life.
In the 1990s I attempted suicide once again by refusing to eat. After spending a couple of weeks in hospital my medicine was changed and I became numb.
I drove to a train track and pulled up on the track, waiting for the train to come by and kill me. The train stopped due to a phone call from a concerned citizen.
My husband took me back to the hospital and the doctors wanted to double my dosage, but I refused to take the prescription from him.
They made me go back to what they called the behaviour modification ward, where they gave me a handful of drugs round the clock for two more weeks.
The doctors in the mental health wards did not diagnose my condition correctly. The classes I was made to participate in were for patients there due to sexual abuse and addictions I did not have.
I told them, but they did nothing. Some nurses were nice, while others refused to give me the time of day.
When they released me, my husband and I stopped at our local drug store on our way home.
I waited in the car and he returned with a bag of medicines, which cost him $980. I told him there was no way I was taking the medication.
I found a woman doctor in a little town next to us who does not believe in prescribing narcotics.
My husband and I had a three-hour talk with her and discussed not taking any more prescribed medication. With her help I have not had any more medication.
As I said earlier, I know my troubles began when I was assaulted in the early 1980s. I can now feel the love of my parents and husband and have a lot of emotions flowing out. I can feel anger, sadness and happiness.. It is okay to cry – it is part of life. I feel a strong love for my family and friends.
My baby sister and I were very close over the past year since I got off the medications.
We made some great memories together. Only three days before she died she seemed happy as we rode our horses and went fishing. We shared our life and dreams together and planned a summer of having fun.
We talked about being Christians by faith and how we knew one day we would be with Jesus. I am grieving for my sister and brother.
I just do not understand how doctors can get way with what they have done to my sister and me.
I have not only lost my sister, I have lost 30 years of my life.
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