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Failing to care for our mentally ill

By Julianne Curwood - posted Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Consider the gauntlet thrown down. I want to know who has the courage and guts to take it up.

Don't tell me my anger is misdirected. I and my family are not blaming the poor person who killed my brother just before Christmas but the “system” that has so badly failed them both. I feel nothing but compassion for him and his family as they too, are suffering anguish and despair at what cannot be undone.

But perhaps, just perhaps, if there are any brave "leaders" out there, they might be willing to thoroughly investigate and overhaul a “system” that fails mentally ill people so dismally, and leaves shattered families and friends behind.


How dare you, Mr Bracks, propose to spend $80 million on advertising. How dare you waste this money? Surely your actions since you have been in power should speak louder than commercials just before election time. Surely this money belongs to the public and should be used to develop systems that actually work, and protect those who are vulnerable in our society?

Do you know how many people that amount of money could help? I challenge anyone who can justify voting for your government after it wastes this huge amount of money on self-promotion.

It is too late for our families now, but there is no point saying “if only” or “we should have”. Now we want to know WHY?

What is the point of a “crisis intervention team” that only operates 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday? Are people with mental illness advised of these operating hours? Do they know they should only hit crisis point between these hours if they expect assistance?

What is the point of a counselling service that operates along the same lines? My family have been offered support services through the Coroner's Office (something we are entitled to apparently because of how our brother died). My siblings have tried to access this service over a pretty rough Christmas break to no avail: staff are either on leave or unavailable. Surely many families would find this period one of need and additional support.

Why was my brother advised to find an alternative place to stay at if his housemate got aggressive? This was supposedly his home, he shouldn't have had to leave because of the threat of violence.


Why were we never told that his housemate had previous convictions?

Did my brother deserve to be killed because of behavioural issues as decided by the Crisis Assessment Team? (This was via hearsay as they didn't come to intervene when my parents and his case worker contacted them over and over again). Why were the opinions of his family and the people who knew him best ignored?

I applaud the police who were always available and always intervened with compassion and empathy when the system failed repeatedly and my desperate parents would call them. To the point of even ringing my parents at a later stage to make sure they were OK. Thank you for this - it meant such a great deal when faced with a generally powerless system.

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About the Author

Julianne Curwood works full time in the aged care industry.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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