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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Aaron and Kristy Robinson

Aaron and Kristy* care for their 22‑year‑old daughter, Thea*, who has multiple diagnoses including borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. Thea has been hospitalised several times due to numerous suicide attempts and a serious eating disorder.

Caring for Thea has a significant impact on Aaron and Kristy’s lives, causing them carer fatigue and ongoing financial and relationship stress.

We have had no carer respite whatsoever throughout the time we have been Thea’s carers. The stress we have been under for the past 10 years has been horrific.

Aaron and Kristy note that being a long‑term carer for someone ‘places a soul destroying burden on families, and affects the ability of these families to keep working’. They would like better financial support for carers of people living with complex and long‑term mental illness.

Kristy has stopped work to care for Thea, and Aaron now works part‑time nearby so he can be called on when there is a crisis at home. The financial pressures caused by Aaron and Kristy’s caring responsibilities adds to what is an already stressful situation.

According to Aaron and Kristy, Thea requires constant supervision to remain safe. At times Aaron and Kristy have felt that Thea has not received sufficient care in a hospital environment, so they now remain with her even when she is in hospital.

Aaron and Kristy said they are not able to go out together, as one of them must be with Thea at all times.

As carers we are unable to go out as a couple to dinner, the movies or to see friends, because at least one of us always has to be with Thea. Even if two support workers are at home, a parent always has to be there as well.

Aaron and Kristy would like carers to be supported by trained staff providing better treatment for complex, suicidal patients, as well as regular respite for carers.

This respite could either be from other highly trained compassionate support workers coming into the family home … or from Thea going somewhere outside of the home where she is looked after, in a caring safe way.

Source: Joint Witness Statement of ‘Aaron Robinson’ and ‘Kristy Robinson’ (pseudonyms), 12 June 2020.

Note: *Names have been changed in accordance with an order made by the Commission.