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Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System

Jim's story*

"My 30-year old boy took his own life last year as a result of the failure of the mental health system. My son never used any kind of drugs. I found him and will never be able to get those images from my mind.

Family meetings

I have had two family meetings at my son’s mental health service.

At the first family meeting, my son was told there were no issues just a mental illness. I disagree with this mind-set and know there were other issues going on for my son.

The second family meeting only lasted 20 minutes. My view is that my son’s psychosis was caused due to stress about his sexual preference. My concerns regarding my son’s acceptance of his sexual preference were dismissed. The psychiatrist did not even suggest the possibility of my son getting a psychologist to deal with these issues. They only talked about what medication he should be on. We were also not provided with any information on psychosis in general.
My son was put on risperidone. The only side effects we were told about was that he may experience an increase in appetite and feel tired. None of the other serious side effects of this medication was discussed.

I had to go through Freedom of Information to access the notes made at the family meetings. After going through them, I am shocked as my concerns were not even noted down.

Visiting room

There has been an occasion where I tried to visit my son and rung the service who told me I could visit. When I arrived, I was informed that the visiting room was not available and was turned away. This shows a lack of compassion by the service. No alternative option was given.

Improvement of the mental health system

I find it outrageous that one person has the power to force another to have medication without them having to take responsibility for the outcome.

A document with a checklist should be used by the mental health service that has a common sense approach and starts with a discussion between family/carers, the psychiatrist and a psychologist. This moves the focus away from a strictly biomedical approach. Forcing the psychiatrist and psychologist to agree on an outcome provides an important check and balance.

This document also should list all the side effects of the prescribed medication to avoid confusion as to whether they have been mentioned to the carer and consumer."

* Names and places have been changed to protect individuals.

Will you add your voice to let everyone know about the state of the mental health system?

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While we welcome you to share your story with us, we are not able to provide clinical advice, referrals or support. If you or someone you know require assistance or need to talk to someone please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.