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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Adam Gould

Adam Gould

Adam has experienced mental health challenges for most of his life. He got an apprenticeship after high school and quickly progressed within the workplace.

At that stage, I discovered that the way to make friends was to smoke pot. I believe that stress of the job, the sort of pre‑existing disposition towards mental health, plus the excessive drug use, tipped me over the edge.

Adam had numerous stays in inpatient facilities and spent years trying to find supports and medication that worked for him.

It was five years where I was in and out of hospitalisation. Nothing was really working. It’s worth noting that to get the medications right, it’s taken us 23 years.

Adam was supported to move into crisis accommodation in Adelaide. As things were stabilising for Adam, his mother got sick and he returned to Melbourne to be with her.

I basically upped stumps and packed everything I could into my backpack and moved up to Melbourne on a bus. I had nowhere to live, so a friend and I set up a squat.

Uprooting his life to move back to Melbourne had impacts for his mental health and his housing. Adam’s relationships with others he was living with were strained, and compounded by a range of issues related to substance use and mental health challenges. Adam says that at one point he called an ambulance.

They turned up about an hour and a half later and I went with them. I was shot full of Valium or diazepam and then released into the wild, no home to go to.

Discharged into homelessness, Adam moved through a number of unstable housing arrangements that were not always appropriate or safe.

Really dodgy hotels with shared bathrooms and fungus on the walls and after that, they moved me to a rooming house. That was horrifying. As soon as I put my bags down and closed my door, one of my neighbours opened the door and said, ‘You got to make your bones; you got to fight me to determine your place in the house’.

Adam moved to more stable accommodation where he has lived for a few years. During this time, Adam has continued to receive mental health support, and has taken actions to limit his exposure to others who are misusing substances and not connecting with support services. He has seen people come and go through services with various outcomes, not all of them good.

It’s a real heartbreaker. I used to watch cowboy films when I was young, and they’re like, ‘he died with his boots on’. And I look at a lot of people who sleep rough and have a hard time or have substance issues and I’d rather they die with their boots off in a comfortable bed in safety and feeling secure.

Adam thinks that more supports should be provided for people experiencing mental health challenges, substance use and homelessness. He thinks that supports should be holistic, not just addressing one issue, and delivered close to where housing is provided.

In terms of rehabilitation of people when they move into the building, we really do need to be rehabilitated in a civilised society. I mean, things like washing your clothes, showering. There’s so much of the stuff that needs to be retrained and retaught. So it goes beyond just psychological and psychosocial setup.

COVID‑19 restrictions have meant Adam hasn’t been able to have any visitors to his home or use the site’s common areas since March. Adam reflected that compliance with a range of COVID‑19 directions and restrictions has been hard to implement in supported accommodation.

You get in a lift and there’s five other people in the lift not wearing masks, and unfortunately, the people doing that are the people most likely to catch COVID. We’ve got a gentleman who wanders up and down the street picking up cigarette butts and sucking on them. If someone with COVID drops a cigarette butt, he’s getting COVID.

Adam is working towards finding stable work and moving out of the supported accommodation.

Source: RCVMHS, Interview with Adam Gould, October 2020.