Critical Condition Print E-mail
Written by Greme Bond   

Media Topics,

I found the following article in the Melbourne Age. I feel its really worth adding to Media Topics.

If adults find this stuff hard, what hope have kids got coping through parents mental illness and then left trying to negotiate treatment systems. Treatment that just spews people out prematurely, offering quick fixes and sending them home again to the kids with parents still in suicidal condition?

Mentally ill parents come home unprepared too. Their kids, the real carers, need a better system of treatment too for suicidal and psychotic parents. Mentally ill parents need to get into proper hospital psychiatric treatment wards, not disrupting casualty departments, and they need to be able to stay in hospital longer as a priority, so they don't continually reek havoc on the next generation ! Psychiatrically ill Parents should not be discharged, till the kids agree they feel the parents condition has sufficiently improved to a stable state and they don't feel, the parent or themselves, are at risk.

If you are lucky to get your parent to hospital,….Casualty / Emergency department is not the place for my mum when she is sick, I don't need the embarrassment of her behavior displayed in front of all the poor stressed doctors and accident victims.



Critical Condition

Reported in The Age Wed march 17 2004

Jason Bond suffered from a depressive illness. He was 20 years old when he dilled himself after being discharged from a Melbourne Hospital. Here, recalls the events leading up to his son's death, a death which he blames partly on the poor state of mental health care in Victoria.

Until the night of March 29, 1993. I had no knowledge or experience of mental illness and not the slightest inkling that my 20 year old son, Jason was suffering from a depressive illness. There had been some behaviour on occasions that had caused concern, but it was 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 Jason had been living with his girlfriend before their break up.

Earlier, I had 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 by the content of the call and his demeanour.

I was so numb with grief and shock I had to be driven to the scene. I arrived just as the undertaker was removing my son's body. He had again taken an overdose of prescribed medication.

I arrived just in time to see Jason collapse and begin convulsing as a result of a massive overdose of prescribed medication. I struggled desperately to keep Jason alive survived that night CPR until the MICA paramedics arrived. It was a close call, but Jason survived that night and , two days later, he was transferred to the psychiatry department of a major public hospital.
The next eight days were enormously disorienting exhausting. Within 24 hours of his arrival at the hospital, Jason was discharged without either of his parents being advised that this was going to happen, and a visitor pressured 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 went ahead.

Within a few hours of leaving the hospital 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 Jasonto 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 went and had a few drinks. He was reported missing and police were 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 agitated and they took him back to the hospital. He was settled when he returned to the psychiatry department, but became agitated and again and when staff would not take his account of being assaulted seriously. Staff responded by grappling with him and attempting to inject him with tranquiliser haloperidol. Jason broke free and staff simply watched while he left the ward at about 3.15am in an agitated state. Their response was to go to a computer terminal and discharge him.

Shortly after this, I received a reverse charges call from a public phone box near the hospital. Jason was sobbing, he was very distressed

Accompanied by his brother, we raced to the hospital and found 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 several hours and , in an assessment carried out by a nurse and a psychiatric registrar, Jason stated that 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 Jason's 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 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, were visiting 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 re-admitted to hospital without some quite specific grounds for concern ? We felt powerless and tried as best we could not to upset him.

Had we been better informed, we might have recognized some of the subtle indications of impending suicide, such as Jason giving away his 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 contacted immediately and they began an intensive search, which included the use of a police helicopter. Jason's mother phoned me and I got her to read the note to me very carefully in case of any clue as to where he might have gone. The clue was there but we didn't understand it 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 he had taken it. But how much was there ? Was it a lethal dose ? My mind raced as I tried to gather 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 I had to be driven to the scene. I arrived just as the undertaker was removing my son's body. He had again taken an overdose of prescribed medication. With what I had witnessed just 11 days earlier, I could picture his death.

To this day, that scene returns to haunt me. In a recent letter to the Victorian Government. Dr Peter Archer, director of emergency services at the Maroondah Hospital, re-ignited debate about the parlous state of mental health services in Victoria when he described how 13 patients admitted to that hospital had committed suicide in 13 months. He pointed to the inability of the facility to provide appropriate care for such patients due to a lack of psychiatric beds. But while the specifics he pointed to were new, none of the underlying issues were.

In a letter to the Age of Feburary 21 Patrick McGorry, professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, said while mental illness constitutes 20 per cent of the illness burden, it attracts only 7 per cent of the health budget. He also noted that suicide now kills the same number of people as road accidents.

In October 2002, the Victorian auditor- general released the report Mental Health Services for People in Crisis. The statistics in the report are stark, ) percent of discharge plans met all the required standards; only 4 percent of patient files met audit standards; in only 6 percent of cases was there evidence of carer collaboration in "case closures" ; (carer psycho-education (educating Carers about the condition of patients) was absent in 98 percent of files reviewed. In short, the report disclosed a massive problem concerning quality.

In our mental health system, deficiencies are the norm; This is no doubt, caused by the under-funding disclosed by Professor McGorry. By my reckoning, mental health receives barely one third of the funding it should, based on the relative illness burden. This situation will not be resolved by opening a handful of new beds, as the Victorian Health Minister Bronwyn Pike seems to think.

Also in the case of these acute psychiatric patients, talk of community care is about as appropriate as suggesting your local GP undertake major cardiac surgery in his rooms.

In 1993, the year my son Jason Killed himself, he had been repeatedly discharged from a psychiatric department of a major public hospital. It was also the year the Burdekin Report (Human Rights & Mental Illness ) was released. Its two volumes and 1008 pages are an indictment of the systematic neglect of mental health services in all Australian states.

The response to the litany of horrors documented so comprehensively in the Burdekin Report was, predictably, denied by health departments everywhere.

The election of the Bracks Government brought a feeling of hope that, at least, the tide would turn and services would be restored to a reasonable level. But the tide has shown little sign of turning. There has been no significant improvement in the public mental health system Indeed, some of the worst of the Kennett "initiatives", which were rightly criticized by the then Opposition spokesman on health John Thwaites, remain in place.

One of the more bizarre amendments to the Mental Health Act implemented in 1995 was the removal of the whole of Section 7, which dealt with involuntary patients, Indeed as far as the Mental Health Act is concerned there is not no such thing as an involuntary patient They have ceased to exist.

Although with the removal of involuntary patients went the right to appeal to the chief psychiatrist against being refused admittance to a public mental health facility.

Interestingly, in relation to this experiences at Maroondah. Dr Archer said in his letter; " It is only the fact that these patients have limited ability to access legal and complaints mechanisms that we are able to get away with the sub-humane care that they currently receive."

All admissions to the public mental health system are now as a result of assessment by a crisis and treatment team (CAT) attending a patient. ACAT team where I live is one person at the end of a phone outside of the hours of 9am and 7pm

Outside these hours, a patient experiencing a crisis will be taken to the accident emergency department of a public hospital by either relatives, ambulance, or police where a CAT team will assess them the following morning, if the patient stays.

The presence of a psychiatric patient in a busy A&E department geared to dealing with physical illness and injuries is inappropriate there are no trained psychiatric staff to care for them and they can become a sourse of disruption and potential danger to other patients. In some cases, they end up strapped to a trolley and attended by a security guard.

When I last checked, the mental health region I live in had 25 acute beds for a population of 450,000.

Confronted with similar circumstances, the New South Wales Government held a parliamentary inquiry into the death of psychiatric patients in care or soon after discharge. The ensuing report, Tracking Tragedy; a systematic look at suicides and homicides amongst mental health inpatients was released in December 2003 and can be found on the internet. Such an inquiry, broadened to include patients denied admission and the adequacy of psychiatric inpatient services, is long overdue in Victoria. The needless dealth of many patients denied appropriate treatment is nothing less than euthanasia by neglect.

By Greme Bond


Jarvis Walker     Arlec

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Featured Articles

The 'Forgotten People'

by Anna Malbon from the Progress Press October 22, 1996

WHEN nine-year-old "Tom" was asked to draw a picture of himself with his mother be drew her trying to strangle him.

Tom entered the world of adults too early. If he was ever immune to the complications and pain of life that adults try to shelter from children, he says he can't remember.

Bulletin Board

I had to struggle extra hard

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I.

They only listened to her stories ”

“ I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know.”

Hi, I had a mentally ill mother. She passed away last year. I literally grew up hanging around mental hospitals because my Mom's condition was a cycle that always ends in a mental hospital. When I was younger, there was a long period when I cried my eyes out every time I was separated from my mentally ill mother because she had to stay in a mental hospital. After I grew older, my Mom's mental illness became impossible for me to bear.

Literally, my Mom's mental illness ruined my life. I think. I had to struggle extra hard for everything because of my big handicap at home. There was no support at all from anyone other than my father. Nobody else wanted to know about it. My mother's own cousin even said to my father not to bring my Mom to their place. I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know. My mother's own sister has been complaining since 2000 and her last complain was on 5 July 2014. This particular aunt keeps complaining about the same thing. That she had to take my Mom for her weekly injections and complained that my father and I was not around to do it. Then, she goes on to say that she saw my Mom beat me up with a cane. When she said that, I asked my Aunt, you saw my Mom beat me up with a cane? She said yes and than, she walked away.

I feel very sore with this aunt. Number one, the period she was complaining about was when I was still schooling and my father's and my mental health had deteriorated so badly that we had to leave the state for our own sanity. Before joining my father, I had to live alone with my Mom and my baby sister for almost a year. My aunt who lived a few minutes drive away did nothing when my Mom beat me up every day for months until my father managed to cut the red tape to remove me. My body was full of bruises and I was terrified to go home after school. Nobody helped. Not the neighbours who can hear all my mom's shouting at me, nor my aunt, nor my grandparents, nor my school's teachers. Someone should had intervened for a 12+ little girl. No adult helped. My father was trying his best to get me away to stay with him. Nobody helped him.

On XXXXXXXXXXXX, my Mom's sister let slip she saw my Mom beat me with a cane. And yet she did nothing! My aunt even had the cheek to say that my Mom beat me up because I said I wanted to go live with my father. The way my aunt said it was like the beatings were wholly my fault. What is wrong with the picture? You have a 12+ girl being beaten up daily, you are an aunt who knows something is going on and did nothing. Yet for years later you complain about having to take your own blood sister for her injections. And, I do not think she did it for longer than my own experiences. Probably only a few times because my father and I had to travel frequently to see to my mother. Due to the cyclic nature of her illness.

I have been going with my father when he took my mother for her weekly injections as a little girl, knee high, ever since I can remember. My own aunt is so calculative. There was a nurse that visits my Mom to give her her injections. But, the problem is my Mom will not let the nurse into her house that is why the intervention is needed. I have lost count on the number of times I had to go with my Mom for her injections as a little girl.

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I. They only listened to her stories and full stop. I think my Mom's doctors are the most heartless people I have ever met in my life. Until today, I do not like anyone who officially practices psychology because those doctors etc... contributed to my life being ruined. That is how I feel. I have been scolded by my Mom's medical team and they even dumped my Mom on me after I just turn 18 and there was no other adult around. And, they knew the situation. I was terrified because my Mom was a very violent. My Mom has pitched me, beaten me up, she has biten me with her teeth, she has smashed my head against the table and threatened to beat me with a piece of hard wood. I experienced all these as a little girl at the tender age of 12+ I had to learn karate to protect myself from her violent ways. And, when my Mom was home, I would lock my room's door and place a chair against it. I was that terrified of her.

All our belongings can go missing because my Mom is good at that sort of thing. You never know what is what with my Mom. It is like having a criminal live under the same roof as you.

My aunt kept repeating to me that on my mother's death anniversary I will have go visit her cemetery. I live in a different state from where my mother's cemetery is located. And, my aunt knows that very well. However she repeated her question to me until I said yes. I hate being forced to do something against my will because I have been forced to do things against my will my whole life.

My life is in ruins because of my mother's mental illness and people like my aunt is perpetuating the troubles for me after my mother's death. When I was 12+, my mother's mother said to me that it is my father's job to take care of my mother. In other words, my father's job and mine. And, they never lifted a finger to help. Just helping a little, my aunt has been complaining about the same thing for more than a decade. Unbelievable. Shameful.

Even though my father and I lived in a different state from my mother, we had to travel up and down every weekend because that is demanded of my mother. Sometimes, we had to travel after school and upon our arrival, she won't let us in and we had to travel all the way back. And, my father will not let me sleep at home as it is a school day, I had to go to school. My education was very important to my father. My mother could not be bothered if I succeeded or not.

I have seen more than any of my Mom's relatives have seen with regards her mental illness but people whom I just met behave like I have no idea about my Mom like they are the authority on her behaviour and her illness. Goodness gracious.

Despite this huge handicap in my life I persevered with my studies. My Mom did not give me any moral or emotional support at all. In fact her mental illness cycle will peak just or during my important exams. In other words, I had to deal with my exams and on top of them a mentally ill mother. By my final year in university, I could not take the pressure of exams and a mentally ill mother's break downs anymore.

When I was in my teenage years and early adult years, I was suicidal. I had to call Befrienders a lot. Thank God for Befrienders.

Before XXXXXXXXXXdate, I do not wish my experience to be experienced by anyone else because it is torture. However, after feeling how hard hearted my aunt is. A so called holy person, a church goer, rich person who has successful kids and grand kids. And, she can talk like it is my fault that my Mom beat me up and she (my aunt) had to take her (her own sister) for her injections when I was a kid. I really wish that my aunt must reincarnate as my father (a few lifes) so that she can eat her own words. If my aunt reincarnates and is put in my father's shoes, she would really deserve it. Hope she learns compassion through it all.

Why can't the world give children of the mentally ill a break? I am so fed up with all this troubles that stem from my mother's sister's attitude towards my father and I. After all shel lives a great lives. Rich live. What is wrong with these people? I really cannot stand them. This is my story.

After I wrote the above - I am more myself now, and I totally forgive my aunt and everybody who did nothing to help my father and I. And, everybody else who were heartless towards my father and I. However, I still think that by living a few life times as my father (my aunt) - would do her some good. But, knowing her character, she might become a psychopath and pose a threat to humanity. My father is a very, very kind soul. My aunt is a hard hearted, prejudiced, narrow minded, one tracked mind person.

How I cope? Trying my best to keep out of their way, and hang out with positive people. There are plenty of great people out there. Nnaami is included :)


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