This issue of our newsletter is partly dedicated to all our interstate volunteers who through their hard work and dedication organised a service on White Wreath Day 29 May 2009 in Remembrance of all Victims of Suicide. Together we bring attention to Action Against Suicide and make governments and the general public aware of the seriousness of suicide/mental illness that is plaguing our lucky country. We sincerely “Thank You All”.
We receive many calls, emails etc across Australia from those trying to access services for their Mental Health and it saddens me that suicide/mental illness is not taken seriously as a life threatening condition. When will it be realised that we are losing thousands of our own men, women and children through lack of services, lack of treatment and no understanding. Those that suffer this dreadful illness and their families understand that they require immediate medical treatment when suicide threatens yet when they try to access the very limited services we have in place today they are routinely refused hospital admission and told to go on their merry way to fend for themselves, cope alone, in silence and the best way they can. Many that contact us come from affluent background and live in secrecy in fear of retribution of workplace, friends etc. They live two lives desperately trying to cope alone and in silence. Sadly the sufferer cannot keep this up finally taking their lives. In most cases family know their loved ones have endured a long struggle but friends wonder why as friends see the other person who comes across as happy, go lucky and fun to be with. How do we stop this. We do this with your help. We need to build our Safehaven Centres for those when suicide threatens. A place of safety. Since our inception all our services we provide have been free and we have achieved this through the hard work and dedication by an enterprising group of volunteers all striving to make the general public and governments aware of the seriousness of suicide/mental illness in our lucky country. We do not receive Government financial assistance and we do not receive huge amounts of donations yet we provide a good service and do our best to assist those in need. Help us raise the much needed funds and ask your workplace to involve themselves with our Sock It To Suicide Campaign. Maybe your workplace holds a dress down day whereby they donate proceeds to charitable organisations. How about nominating our organisation. How about asking your local school about involving themselves having fun with Sock It to Suicide by students wearing the brightest coloured pair of socks or stocking to school. This is a fun and light hearted campaign and they may enjoy being involved and at the same time getting the message across. Maybe you can sell our Sock It To Suicide Pins or our White Bows within your workplace. How about asking your local store, eg Chemist etc if they would sell a box of pins or white bows on our behalf. I’m sure many of you have more ideas of involving workplaces, friends and families to assist us to raise the much needed funds. Together let us build these Centres and make 2010 the year.
CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story…If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble, it’s a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
PETER NEAME RESEARCH OFFICER
WHAT THE SOUTHLAND TIMES SAY
Despair and information
SO THE road toll is lower than the suicide toll.
Hideous though the thought of lives ended by road carnage may be, it is worse to realise that despair has claimed more of us. And in a country that most people really do regard as a land of plenty, blessed as few counties are.
Most likely the media howl will go up once again that New Zealand has, by international standards, a particularly restrictive system controlling how suicide may be reported.
And that, even so, we have one of the higher suicide rates.
So a fat lot of good that appears to have done.
This newspaper retains its dissatisfaction at the present regime, and believes the public is ill-served as a result.
Quite apart from legal restrictions, cautionary advise was sent out to media urging us to shun even the word suicide.
One upshot was a whole heap of clumsy decoding going on. Does anyone out there by now, not know how to decipher the raptorial jargon “the police are not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident”?
However, it should at least be acknowledged that suicide numbers have fallen dramatically during the past decade, presumably reflecting in part a substantial increase in Government funding for suicide prevention study and action, up from $28,000 in 2002 to over $20 million.
Jim Anderton, who oversees the suicide prevention portfolio, has sought to correct the impression that the problem is an overwhelmingly youth orientated one. Though our youth suicide rate is high by international standards, the fact remains that four out of five people who kill themselves in New Zealand are aged over 24. Mr Anderton insists this is a health issue – as 95 per cent of people who commit suicide have a serious mental health issue.
The Suicide Prevention Network of New Zealand points to the increased activity in research and prevention as providing a rich body of evidence on which to base the development of effective policies.
Let’s be hearing more about these, then. The network dismisses as unsound the media complaints about reporting restrictions.
The two main point it would have us remember are that there is no evidence that suggest that media reporting is beneficial in reducing suicidal behaviours, and suggest that “incautious reporting” of suicidal behaviours may increase suicide.
Is it too incautious to ask, then, whether the community really believes we are better serviced by not knowing more about this problem.
“Does anyone out there, by now, not know how to decipher the reportorial jargon “the police are not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident”?”
Peter Neame is Research and Publication Officer for White Wreath Action against Suicide and author of “Suicide and Mental Health in Australia and New Zealand”.
REAL LIFE STORY
MY ONGOING BATTLE — CONTINUED
I sit here and think, “Is this all worth it?” My thoughts are rising telling me to hurt myself to cut myself. They want me to cut my torso open and pull my wrists and make that heart stop beating. All these thoughts are ongoing every second of every day. I want them to stop, STOP, STOP!!! Then I am haunted by them in my sleep. I am at my own funeral watching those who believed they were my friends. But, where are they now, here, today through this battle. I am alone in this battle field of thoughts.
I have many battle scars already, what is one more slice on my arms, on my legs, on my stomach? Why do I have these thoughts are they what normal people have or does this really make me crazy. Is this why I’m on this planet, I hope not. This has not just been a short struggle. I have been at war for eight years going on nine. How much can a Kola bear? I am at the end of my rope and the light at the end of the tunnel is not there. I just want it to stop to have a break some silence in my head. Some happy thoughts like rabbits hopping among the fields.
Should I give in to these thoughts? Would you miss me? I am not even contributing to society because of this illness inside of me. I am worthless and unfortunate in this world. How can it be so cruel to make someone’s brain think these horrible thoughts? To mental health I would be just another statistic, another number who has committed suicide one less person for them to have to look after. Those that would care they would get over it and the burden I lay them with to look after me at the moment would be gone and they could get on with their lives.
I think about ways I could do it in my house or outside when I was walking. Throw myself in front of a car, hang myself. Then I get told what about your cat. Well, he will be coming with me. We are both strange as one another and I am sure he wants out of this life if he is not with me.
A few weeks ago I took what mental health told me was an overdose. I was just talking the pills every half an hour just to make the thoughts inside my head disappear. They didn’t believe me and they still didn’t admit me. So it took more self harming episodes for a crazy drug filled two day stay in hospital. No one addressed any problems I wasn’t even seen by a psychiatrist only a student doctor. Two weeks later I had another two night stay. What is that going to do? To be taken seriously you need to be deadly serious these days.
If I killed myself what would they say, “Oops she was serious and not attention seeking!” But still another number to add to their statistics, they don’t care if I die they still have a job tomorrow and their lives when I am dead. What a life I have. I am not saying whoa me, or anything. I live with 24 hours a day seven days a week. No breaks at all. It’s like a full time job that doesn’t pay well, have days off or holidays.
I don’t know what is going to happen to me. I am a mass of scars, I am a freak. Alone in a world where all there is death and self harm. I could only dream of a day where my life will be normal. I can’t see that day ever occurring. I don’t know how much longer I can survive like this. How can anyone else in the world cope with this?
I hope I will still be here to write to you again in the next chapter of my life. I am trying my hardest to stay here and hopefully I will with the help and support of the White Wreath Association. I need a better solution to help me to continue to live. If anyone out there can help, I wish you were here to help me through this so I don’t cause devastation to the few family and friends that care for me. To all those out there that are feeling as I do now, my thoughts go out to you.
WHITE WREATH DAY
PALMER SOUTH AUSTRALIA
WHITE WREATH ASSOCIATION MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE MAY 2009
This year on 29th May a memorial service for victims of suicide was held at the Palmer Pavilion. This day is supported by the White Wreath Association which has been established to raise awareness of suicide and raise funds to support people affected by suicide. About 30 people attended the service where 8 memorial wreaths were displayed in memory those who have lost their lives through this tragic circumstance.
The purpose of the afternoon was to provide a safe comforting environment for family and friends to come together and remember their loved ones without fear of facing the stigma attached to suicide. The White Wreath Day aims to raise awareness to the wider community of the extent to which suicide and the lack of its acknowledgment affects people’s lives.
Guest speakers shared personal memories and talked about some of the things individuals might be able to do to help prevent someone from taking their life, and how they might support the family and friends of suicide victims.
If anyone would like to become involved in supporting the White Wreath fundraising events held in the third full week of October or the organising of a service in 2010 you can contact Janet Kuys on 8569 4009.
For more information about the White Wreath Association they can be contacted on 1300 766 177, or visit the website.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA WHITE WREATH DAY
The ceremony held at the lovely old Christchurch Anglican Church in Mandurah on Friday 29th May was both beautiful and meaningful. Approximately fifty people attended including two representatives from the police and our Mandurah MLA. The readings were all chosen and presented by bereaved mothers and fathers as was the music. The minister of the church who acted as our master of ceremonies and the ladies from the congregation who presented the morning tea were very warm and welcoming. The wreaths were laid on the steps of the altar which has lovely stained glass windows in the background so they made a beautiful picture.
Among the requests for wreaths to be laid on behalf of those who couldn‟t attend was one on behalf of a Canadian. How privileged we are to be able to do that for someone. We received many positive comments about how beautiful and moving the ceremony had been. Like all memorial events, the healing that is gained from the gathering together of people bereaved by suicide cannot ever be underestimated.
DONATIONS TAX DEDUCTIBLE
Stamps, Copy Paper, DL Envelopes, Volunteers Aust/Wide
OR YOU MAY LIKE TO DONATE:
- Via our credit card facility posted on our Website www.whitewreath.com then follow the instructions.
- Directly/Direct Transfer into any Westpac Bank:
Account Name White Wreath Association Ltd
BSB: No 034-109
Account No: 210509
- Cheque/Money Order to White Wreath Association Ltd
PO Box 1078 , Browns Plains Qld 4118
WE ARE NOW TAX DEDUCTIBLE
TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTRE
Failure to Treat People with Severe Psychiatric Disorders Is a Very Expensive Mistake
Our failure to ensure treatment for many of the hundreds of thousands of individuals discharged from state psychiatric hospitals has led to many tragedies. The Treatment Advocacy Center has abundantly documented how this has led to a sharp increase in mentally ill individuals who are homeless, who are incarcerated in jails and prisons, who are victimized, and who commit violent acts, including homicides, because they are not being treated. A recently published paper now adds a new dimension to this mistake-it is very costly. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 360, April 2, 2009) entitled “Rehospitalization among patients in the Medicare fee-for-service program,” Dr. Stephen F. Jencks and his colleagues analyzed Medicare claims for 2003-2004 for individuals who were discharged from a hospital and then had to be rehospitalized within 30 days following their discharge. Among 11 causes of initial hospitalization, those hospitalized for psychoses had the second highest rate of rehospitalization within 30 days (24.6 percent), slightly behind the rehospitalization rate for heart failure (26.9 percent) but well above the rehospitalization rates for pneumonia, GI problems, and various forms of surgery. Further, two-thirds of those discharged with psychoses were rehospitalized for the same reason.
This sequence is familiar to everyone. Individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who are on medication and doing well at the time of their initial discharge fail to take their medication once they leave the hospital. The most common reason for their failure to take medication is anosognosia-the fact that they do not think they are sick. Their brain disease has damaged the parts of the brain we use to think about ourselves, and they therefore are unable to understand that they are sick. Other reasons for failing to take their medication include its costs, side effects, and an administrative failure to give it to them. It is an expensive failure of the psychiatric care system. Using data from the Jencks et al paper, it is possible to calculate that the number of individuals discharged with psychoses and rehospitalized within 30 days for the same reason is almost 69,000 per year. And using the cost data compiled by Jencks et al, the cost of rehospitalization for those patients with psychoses is approximately $410 million per year.
As President Obama’s staff begins to look for areas in medicine where savings could be affected, here is an easy $410 million in Medicare savings. Just ensure that these individuals get treated after they are discharged. An effective and proven way to do this is assisted outpatient treatment.
The Soloist: Don’t Miss It
Review by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey
The Soloist is one of the best movies ever made about schizophrenia. It is based on the true story of a Los Angeles Times reporter, Steve Lopez, who discovers and writes about a gifted musician who has developed schizophrenia and become homeless. Robert Downey Jr. plays Lopez and Jamie Foxx is outstanding as Nathaniel Ayers, the homeless musician with schizophrenia. The flashbacks depicting the onset of Ayers’ auditory hallucinations ring true, as do his chaotic thinking and behaviour. But what really sets the movie apart is its discussion of whether Ayers should be involuntarily hospitalized and treated. In the end he is not, like most of the rest of the homeless mentally ill persons depicted in the movie. The Soloist is thus a Hollywood promo for why the Treatment Advocacy Center exists.
White Wreath Association Ltd.
Newsletter 37th Edition August 2009
The views & opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views and opinions of the White Wreath Association Ltd.
To Treat or Not to Treat
What happens when a patient with a severe mental illness refuses treatment?
Unfortunately, the answer too often results in tragedy that might have otherwise been prevented. Policies put in place over the last 50 years, often with the best of intentions, have made the problem worse. Laws put in place with the intent of protecting civil liberties are now blocking a patient’s right to treatment and to live a full and productive life. The Treatment Advocacy Center exists to change these outdated policies and restore reason to treating mental illness.
But what are the effects of giving medication to someone with schizophrenia or another severe mental illness who might otherwise refuse treatment?
Studies show that the long-term effects of providing the medication are more positive than commonly thought, and far more beneficial than opponents of treatment reforms would lead others to believe.
America’s failure to treat severe mental illnesses threatens the health and safety of people with the diseases and those around them. The consequences are heartbreaking. The numbers are staggering. The human toll is immense. The financial cost is wasteful. Each day, somewhere in the U.S., there is a preventable tragedy involving someone with an untreated severe mental illness. Some are too sick to recognize their need for treatment.
The medical fact is that impaired insight is part of the disease for nearly half of people with severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia. It is the single most important reason why someone with a severe mental illness does not take their medication.
While voluntary persuasion should always be attempted first, ultimately involuntary treatment is necessary for some patients to recover and reclaim their lives.
SOCK IT TO SUICIDE
First Full Week In October Mon – Fri
THIS EVENT IS VERY IMPORTANT AS IT IS OUR MAJOR FUNDRAISNING EVENT AND YOUR HELP WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATEED. MAYBE YOU COULD INVOLVE YOUR WORKPLACE, LOCAL SCHOOL, COMMUNITY CENTRE ETC.
Holding the event involves workplaces, schools, social clubs, senior citizen clubs etc to wear (self supplied) coloured socks or stockings during one day of the week, and making a donation of a gold coin for the privilege. Alternatively they can purchase a Sock It To Suicide Pin for $3.00 plus postage. If you wish to purchase 20 or more pins they will come in a very well, brightly presented box of 20. We would greatly appreciate your support with this endeavour and hope it is a fun day for all. Contact Head Office for more details.
The following correspondence maybe disturbing to our readers as it is also to us. Until our Safehaven Centres are up and running we have no other alternative than to direct people to their Psychiatrist/Doctor or directly to the Emergency of a Public Hospital nearest to them. Concerned family members should insist that their loved ones are admitted to hospital and assessed over time. Suicide/mental illness is life threatening and like any other life threatening illness eg Cancer, Heart Disease should be treated as a Medical Emergency. We advocate for all Australians assisting them to receive proper and immediate help/treatment with their full permission in writing allowing us to act on their behalf in any way we see fit. However this is not as easy as it sounds as most try to cope alone, in silence and the best way they can.
I stumbled across your site. Thank you for getting awareness out there. I have in the past tried 2 times to end my life. Recently I have started therapy and about to be assessed with a mental illness due to suffering depression (been assessed for Bipolar) after losing a loved one in a car
accident. I found a lot of peace looking through your site. I hope once I am a bit more stable (financially, mentally) to be able to help support awareness.
Thank you for taking the time to set up the website.
Dear Ms Clarke/admin
This is an old email I found when I was cleaning out the inbox, can you pass this onto Ms Fanita Clark
I have also noticed that your organisation has expanded tremendously congrats.
I just wanted to share this story with you. Have a wonderful day
Dear Ms Clarke/administration,
I was blessed enough today to see your commemoration (sorry I have trouble spelling) today in the city below where I work. I wish to give a truly heartfelt thank you for this organisation.
The ceremony reminded me of my own personal struggles I faced in the past and the issue of suicide especially youth suicide is very close to my heart. I went through the struggles when I was 13-14 to the point I had to go to counseling for a long period. The idea of suicide was a foreign concept especially to my parents so when they found out they flipped because there was nothing obviously wrong in my life to make me feel this way. (the only reason they found out was the school nurse told them- without me knowing).
Building myself was very hard long process, and the thing with people going through such sadness is often hidden from the world, in school I was always bright and cheerful and little did anyone know. I am now 20 years of age with my current joyous attitude to life no-one would have ever thought I had been through such a sad time in my life (which is the way I like to keep it). I believe the best way to support a person going through such thoughts is to let them know that you will always be there and that they are special and never alone. The footprints poem really helped me. I was living day by the day the only thing that got me through my love for my younger siblings and day by day I would live just so they can see me again.
Suicide is such a tragic way to lose someone, raising awareness is very important and I am so happy and grateful to see such a beautiful organisation.
So today I say thank you
Thank you so very much for today, I cannot believe I went to this day… I did get off the train and did see all the white wreaths all over PO Square and was overcome and thought I cannot do this at all it is too confronting – but I did it and now after a few wines (sorry if this offends) now I am so overcome with tears and emotion and just so many tears… But I did I bought a wreath plus one of every thing you had on sale at 11am and place my dear brother Steve Norris photo and my card and my key ring with him and me on his 40th only a few months later he was gone, in his own personal wreath I cannot believe it my shrink will be proud… LOL sorry bit of humour. I so wanted to come an say hi and give you a hug – this is such a hard but a memorial day for you personally I was not far from the lady that needed a chair so over come with emotion. I totally understand I was sitting to prevent needing a chair… I not wanted a fuss.
Thank you so so much for today and I will come next year, but Fanita this is still not something I accept or understand and I not recognize this at all, I still have that big tag on my back front and sideways that says my brother my only sibling died off suicide.
Now on a more serious in today times note… why why why is this not on radio on every channel and every station (free of charge) that it is national memorial day of suicide survivors coming to this occasion why does no one give a dam to have this dam advertised for every dam person in BRISBANE to know this day exists… Why do these people of power the police fellow there the health minister (what a joke he even knows first hand as he said) why oh why do they not give money for this cause and why oh why was Anna not there, I not care for the excuses – Fanita this is important she says she is big on health well why are we the only state in this country that gets a pity full amount of MENTAL HEALTH MONEY / SUPPORT in our hospitals , I source the states on this issue every week we are the only state that gets this weak amount of money, but other states get billions of dollars but QLD get zip IN COMPARISON. IT is WRONG..
I can tell you now , my darling brother estate was worth a good amount of money cause my brother was just awesome at money handling but sadly he not have a will at 40 and sadly the shocking laws in this state our so called farther that had nothing to do with my darling brother and me for 35 years received a lovely cheque for $275k and this is shocking and not fair, I so tried so hard to fight this our mum had a tough time raising us when we were in our teens but I will I promise on my darling brothers grave site – when he just tips from this life, I will fight it so badly as I am a daughter and he is very wealthy without my Steve’s money but I want only Steve’s hard earned money cause he may have had mental health issues but he still went to work every day regardless.. This money will come to you I promise you this (no I am just a web site visitor I always look at this site for new news and chats).. As long as you can promise me 1 just 1 wing or room will have the name Steve Norris on it I will give you it all my dear friend (even though until today not even no what you look like). But it will happen please do not question this. I am so fixed on these issues we face I have been a rep for 19 years and I still am part time but I am also studying full time to be a Youth Worker and I will achieve my goals so far I am half way there, plus I mentor with Boystown youth in high schools as a volunteer every week.. But my dream is to be a youth worker within the mental health and I will make a difference and Steve will live on, cause all these mucho men and young men will learn that you need to ask for HELP even though Steve did and I gave him that he lived with me in crisis times and I found him doctors and was at his beck and call for 15 years he always called me and his neighbors I was there, had to be my mum could not deal with it, I was there when our dad walked out he was 11 I was 13 and this was his case… He not know love when he needed other than me, he not know how to show it and when it was shown it was too scary…
I feel this over comparison feeling that your amazing and I think you need to be recognized for this, no one I have sourced sites let me tell you and this is where I want to be with this group and be proud of it,,, it will happen when I get this opportunity Fanita I will call you cause we will have a lot of work to do.
I think I have said enough but thank you again, I have not accepted this part of my life being a suicide survivor, but I guess coming today was a start.
Cheers R T
I just wanted to write and say I wish I’d known about your organisation and the event held in Post Office Square today sooner! I was on my lunch break and walked past PO Square and noticed the gathering, but didn’t have time to stop. I came back to work & googled PO Square & today’s date and found your website…
Your cause is so worth while; I am very pleased that an organisation like yours exists. Finding your website has made me really emotional!
My boyfriend whom I live with has Bipolar and has tried to suicide twice in the last year, so I know first hand how serious this issue is (not to mention the day-to-day stresses he and I both go through living with mental illness). I think in particular it is so very important to educate people of the reality – and the seriousness – of mental illness. It angers me that it is still such a taboo subject. I can’t imagine how isolated those left after a loved one has taken their own lives must feel.
Thank you for what you do.
PS given that I hadn’t heard of today’s event – maybe next year some targeted advertising could be worthwhile? I’m not sure if you did this, but I work in …………, so not very far from PO Square, and I hadn’t heard anything.
I’m sure there are a lot of businesses in the CBD who’d be willing to supply flyers about your cause. If you have anything like that please let me know and I can see if my HR department would be willing to put something up
Dear White Wreath Group
My father has been suffering depression for approximately 40 years now. Every time he suffers a relapse he is off to hospital and put on medication. As his son I can see a direct cause in his relapses from environmental factors however all his doctors can do is talk about is trying various
strengths and types of medication. Most seem oblivious to any environmental factors that all his family agrees have caused his relapses.
My mother and my sister are dominant in my father’s treatment and they see finding the right drugs and doctor the solution. They seem content with him been on drugs permanently although so far this has not worked. My dad is 71 now and he does not have in my view another 40 years to spend trying various doctors and drugs.
I think the solution is in someone understanding my dad’s lifestyle and modifying risk factors rather than popping pills. I am concerned that as he gets older he may not be able to cope and it could lead to something tragic.
I need to be put in contact with people who have found out tragically that doctors and medication will not save your loved ones from the very worst aspects of depression. If I could then put these people in contact with my mother then there is a chance that she would look at someone who
could deeply understand my dad’s behavior and help him.
Any help that you could give would be appreciated.
I recently attended your White Wreath Day in Post Office Square and I thought it was a very lovely service and a wonderful way to remember all the beautiful souls who have passed. A great job! I am inquiry about volunteering and in what areas you need people to volunteer and also where.
My husband passed in 2001 and It was good for us to be able to leave his photo and a gift of chocolate from his children. He was a chocoholic and it has always been our way of remembering him, that is we eat lots of chocolate for him on his birthday and Christmas, guilt free.
My son also suffers from bipolar and has made numerous suicide attempts and as I have read on your website we to are pulling out our hair with lack of hospital beds.
So if you could let me know in what capacity you need volunteers that would be appreciated.
What a lovely idea your organisation has.
My father died on 17 June 1986 in Brisbane and although I was told of his passing, I wasn’t ever told HOW. In 1997 I managed to find out that it was suicide that took him. I still think of him often and with the anniversary of this date approaching again the questions start to spin, he died on my 7th birthday you see. My birthday is not a celebration it is a memorial, silent and alone for me with no family. I am making the man proud. I know it.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. Dalai Lama
My name is K…, a university student at D….. (Victoria). I am commencing a journalist research course which entails an article on awareness week. I have chosen ‘depression’ in its various forms, i.e. anxiety. Postnatal, bipolar etc. The article will endeavour to present to the reader how serious this disease is and how access to help needs to be more accessible than it appears to be at present. My article is as follows:-
My research into this article has made me become quite concerned with regards to mental health in Australian communities. There appears to be very little education for both young and old alike. When a person is faced with a problem there appears to be no sufficient professional help available to assist the individual and their carer. White Wreath (www.whitewreath.com) is a site I suggest all readers of this article view. The Anecdotes of some of these people are exceptional unbelievable in today’s modern society.
Medium and long term beds for patients are non-existent; sufferers may be admitted for 3-4 hours to a few days then released. The Governments statistics state there are approximately 2,100 suicides a year, while White Wreath claims the figure to be closer to 8,000. A coroner only needs to find out what a person died of, not how and why. For example, if a person tied bricks to their feet and jumps in the water the coroner would find their death to be drowning. If someone was to fall off a cliff it may be considered an accidental death. Even if the government stats of 2100 suicides are correct this total is unacceptable. If these figures were road deaths, the community would be out raged.
My aspiration for writing this article is to bring to attention mental health issues in our communities. People reading this article will realize “awareness week” for such an important topic is one requiring constant pressure on governments and professionals in the field not just a few dates and days in the yearly calendar.
I hope this article will find parents watching their children for changes in personalities, Young adults looking after each other when they find their mates to be acting differently from normal. Society must demand more assistance from governments to finance professionals and institutions that are needed “NOW”. There is an irony pertaining to this appeal that being the financial burden to society to fund mental institutions and qualified professionals, the cost is enormous, but these unfortunate individuals are already costing the tax payer when they are imprisoned for their actions due to not having the relevant treatment prior to their offence. The treatment of some people‟s mental health issues may be controlled through medication and communication, support from community groups alike. The problem I feel that needs to be addressed is those who suffer in silence, have irrational thoughts, self harm and seek no help or advice. These people are already on the edge and something must be done immediately.
These following interviewees from all walks of life, with differing life experiences have given me much of their valuable time and knowledge regarding their opinion on mental health issues.
My first interview was conducted with a professional in the community who had suffered from post-natal depression and still suffers depression; her grievance was with access and confidentiality issues in the regional areas in our communities. In small towns the heath centre usually accommodates other medical necessities, for example the mental health nurse, may be in the same building as the physiotherapist and the podiatrist. Thus making their visit to a medical centre common knowledge to those present due to it not being a separate facility. The other issue K… brought to my attention was the doctor/patient confidentiality law did not allow spouses or careers to obtain medical information so they could be of help in the assistance of the patients well being.
Assistance and commitment from the government was also high on her priority list. Families needed support, as well as some form of accommodation assistance, as those in rural communities were faced with a huge financial burden when faced with any medical needs especially on going mental health issues.
Education is important as she felt there was still some stigma attached to people with mental health problems. There was a bona fide need to educate parents as to how to recognise changes and behaviour in their children, as well as being able to recognise changes in others around them.
Some workshops for many issues including mental health are hard to accommodate. Times do not suit, “that is someone else, not me attitude”, thus people are left to suffer alone. Her suggestion was for a newsletter that people could read at their own pace in their own personal time. The use of personalities, footballers for example to promote the problem of mental health and where they can turn for help would also be beneficial.
Doctors needed to be more pro-active when a patient presents, even to the extent of having that person committed for the safety of themselves and others. There are many categories of depression needing differing treatments but the professionals appear to treat most cases the same, was another attitude she felt needed addressing.1
My next interview was with a lady who has been involved with R….. for numerous years. G…. was to spend many tedious hours on the phone to arrange mental health seminars for school students and adults interested in mental health issues. These were considered to be exceptionally educational to all who attended. Many students were unaware the problem was so prevalent in society and what help was available. Schools have at present a government funded “Life Ed” van that travels around educating children on food, drugs, smoking, stranger danger and the consequences of these actions. G… and I discussed that perhaps something similar could be available to educate children and their parents regarding “mental health” issues.
Education was thus, one of her beliefs with total commitment from government. There was a need to have a pool of professionals available 24/7 to assist those who need help post haste. 2
As a father, husband and suffer of bi-polar this gentleman is currently working as a sub-contractor for S.A ….. The official title “M……”.The main purpose of these seminars is to provide information and support to those that need help or may require assistance in the future. The seminars consist of approximately 30 men who represent a broad cross section of their community. R…. feels there is the need for consistent family support for individuals who are becoming depressed. Some individuals may require weekly or bi-weekly support with a professional career- one on one.
Those individuals who are irrational and will not communicate must be “committed‟ for their safety and that of others. He also feels there is a severe difference between men and women and these differences need to be taken into consideration when dealing with mental health issues. For example men respond more openly to a one on one conversation where women will talk freely with others present. R….. also feels there are more women health professionals thus gender specific education may need addressing with regards to this situation. He feels more skilled communicators are needed especially in rural settings who understand rural communities and what hardships they face on the land.3
On Tuesday I had the privilege to speak via phone to one of the highly respected members of The……who specialises in psychotherapy. We discussed mental issues with regards how best to treat their differing causes and symptoms as well as what was needed to address the problem .The quote I was given with regard to mental health issues was as follows:
“The presenting issue is rarely the problem”
They then proceeded to explain what was meant by this ideology. The stigma of a mental health issues makes some people reluctant to address their problem or speak openly to others. Then there are those individuals that have brain imbalances or damage requiring medical intervention to stabilise their condition which require quite different treatments. There are others that are known by therapists to have “self- induced” issues that have resulted from previous occurrences in their lives. Many individuals present with issues that once discussions occur with a qualified psychotherapist are diagnosed as having manifested as a result of past under lying issues and problems, having occurred months or years before. Thus, giving these individuals medication to control their depressive state would only masked their problem, because the underlying cause is still present and has not been addressed correctly. These people are then put on medication, which requires an educated guess as to what doses are required to control their specific mental state. They literally have tablets thrown at them until a reasonable balance is obtained.
The.…believe a medical technique known as “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy” or (CBT) can be beneficial for the patient. The procedure Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that helps a person to change unhelpful or unhealthy thinking habits, feelings and behaviours. The goal with CBT is to look back into the patients past and discover what has made them feel this way. The process then has them learn to face their so called „demons‟ by achieving specific tasks or goals.
However it must be noted that CBT alone is not the only answer, talking therapies are not enough? CBT alone will not help People with unresolved issues from the past that have affected their life today. Psychotherapy may also be needed such as exercises, hypnotherapy along with a number of other modalities.
“Awareness” education of both the younger and the older generation is also seen to be exceptionally important in the management and understanding of mental health issues.
Children in schools need to be educated by qualified people who are trained to detect core underlying issues that our children may be facing. (Abuse, family break downs, and grieving- the list is endless)These children need to know in their early years what helpful resources are available, as well as how to access them. Parents need to be able to access information on what they need to look for to prevent their children from becoming victims of this disease. The ideology of this early education is to try and discover and prevent the child from developing any mental issues which may result in harm to themselves or others 20 or 30 years down the track.
An issue that is also of prodigious importance is the need for government to become thoroughly aware of the mental health issues faced by many in society. Government needs to be “totally committed” to addressing all phases of the mental health crisis, especially with the financial support that is required to address the problem.4
The White Wreath Association (www.whitewreath.com) is a non-profit organisation founded by Fanita Clark in 2000 who was to tragically lose her son to mental illness in 1999. Looking for answers as to why and how this tragedy could have happened, Fanita began her research on mental health and the role government’s play. Fanita and Peter Neame (White Wreaths research officer) were kind enough to assist me in my research into various areas of mental health which I found to be absolutely unbelievable. They were to inform me that the government realised there was an enormous problem regarding mental health and the professionals refused to treat those considered the sickest and at risk of suicide. These professionals did not wish to treat those with severe mental health issues preferring to treat the so called “worried well “who are considered not to be suicidal.
The “worried well” are people who face every day life setbacks such as money problems, family issue etc which we all considered to be normal main stream issue faced in life. Dorothea Dix was to implement institutions for the mentally ill who were imprisoned and treat atrociously back in the 18th century. Governments appear to have allowed these institutions for mental recovery to slip back into the early 17th and 18th century. Severe mental illness can take 12 – 18 months to treat under professional care; as there is no magic bullet or quick fix. There were previously 300 beds per 100,000 population and patients could face up to a month of treatment to control their illness. Due to costs and with government having budget cuts‟ mental health was put on the chopping block. Our current system to assist severe mental patients is nonexistent, the government and the medical professionals appear to have wiped their hands of those with severe mental health problems. As a result these unfortunate people are ignored, leading to violence, suicides, murder, and homicides. They then face lengthy stays in jail as a result of their actions. Many men and women in jail have some form of mental illness that has not been addressed sufficiently, which has thus lead to why they have been imprisoned. The White Wreath Association would like to know who is responsible legally for these people’s actions as they were given no assistance by medical professionals to help prevent such occurrences. Is or should this lack of responsibility be considered a type of culpable neglect? (Publicans are becoming responsible for supplying drinks to those under the influence of alcohol who then proceed to drive).
There appears to be many differing opinions as to how to attack this mental health problem. Education and government commitment appears to be a common denominator to all those spoken to for this article. As all mental health issues have differing causes and differing categories there appears to be the need to address them as per their merits on an individual case by case diagnosis. The exceptionally concerning mental health issue is those with schizophrenia who need treatment “yesterday” and not be put in the too hard basket and forgotten about, as has been demonstrated to be the case through my association with Fanita Clark of White Wreath. (Please check out www.whitewreath.com)
My conclusion for this article is therefore, awareness week may bring about awareness of the problem but is no closer to a solution on fixing this medical problem in our communities.
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 mentl 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’s 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’s 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’s death. They found that: Dr. Davies had not read Liam’s medical notes, Dr. Bandawadena had not formally assessed him and that it was an error in judgment 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’s admission. Dr. W.J. Kingswell ( the new Director of Mental Health at Logan), has been quoted, “Logan 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, “too 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’t start funding the mental health issues raised here, unfortunately we will see more families going through the trauma that my family has endured.