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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Al Gabb

Al Gabb

Al Gabb is a farmer who grew up in Skipton, about 45 minutes’ drive west of Ballarat.

At boarding school, he was constantly bullied and would phone his parents in tears. The lack of early intervention from the school has had a lasting impact on his life and has contributed to the poor mental health he now experiences.

After travelling the world in his 20s and 30s, Al decided to return home to his family and the farm about seven years ago. He bought a block of land for himself, but a year later he was facing serious financial difficulties and a relationship breakdown.

Living alone on the farm also made him reclusive, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to go weeks without human interaction beyond going to the local store.

He also shut out his family and friends.

… It really made me spiral downhill as a person […] the walls started to cave in around me. I was making it worse for myself through my behavioural patterns.

Al realised he needed help and sought the advice of a local GP, who diagnosed him with depression, prescribed antidepressants and put him on a mental health care plan, including access to 10 sessions with a psychologist.

I was in crisis. I had made attempts on my own life. For me it was not enough. When you’re in crisis as a person and your life is in the balance, 10 sessions does not fix everything. It doesn’t even start to fix [it].

Al’s father recommended a Melbourne private psychiatrist, who had helped other family members. Al found the support helpful but driving more than two hours each way for a session was too much.

I felt that the Melbourne psychiatrist was good, and we made some inroads. However, travel to and from these appointments was a whole day venture.

I stopped seeing the Melbourne Psychiatrist because it was too inconvenient and too hard to be away from my work on the farm for that long.

After one of his attempts to end his life, Al and his brother met the ambulance at an intersection in Skipton so he could be to be taken to hospital:

Unbeknownst to me the volunteer (ambulance officer) was a local farmer who I know really, really well. For him to have to pick me up in my state, he was just doing what he does. There was also another neighbour who’s a great friend of my family—all there helping me get in the ambulance on the side of a country road.

Using his own personal experience, Al is now taking up an advocacy role and openly talking about mental health.

Source: Interim Report, November 2019