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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Angelina

Angelina* is 20 years old and lives in Melbourne. She was a victim of family violence throughout her childhood. Her home environment made her feel unsafe, and she found schooling particularly difficult. She has also experienced anxiety and depression.

My mum was very abusive and manipulative. And there was a lot of domestic violence at home, and it was constant for pretty much 19 years. So that affected me, but I still stayed home, because I was studying full‑time, I was working part‑time, I had animals at home.

Angelina said that despite telling her school counsellor about her home life, she did not get any help to find safe accommodation and didn’t know what was available.

My boyfriend at the time, his parents let me stay there for about six weeks, so that I could do my VCE year 12 exams in a safe environment.

While studying and living with her father, her mental health declined and she started experiencing psychosis. She was admitted to a Psychiatric Assessment and Planning Unit (PAPU), and then a Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) service.

I went to PAPU, which is like a transitionary unit and then I went to PARC and PARC really helped. I didn’t know anything about PARC or PAPU in high school, and I would have loved to be in PARC.

The PARC staff discussed alternative housing options with Angelina, and she was pleased to get into short‑term youth accommodation. She appreciated the individual support she received, with a safety plan, a care plan and help to find long‑term accommodation with mental health support. Angelina has moved eight times during 2020, which has been challenging to juggle with her study.

The housing situation definitely does impact my mental health. I didn’t realise how much it would have, but staying in a refuge has been very helpful.

Angelina is now accessing support from a youth early psychosis program through the public mental health service in her area. In future, she hopes students can access better mental health support through schools and have their stories heard.

I think children need to have their problems taken seriously, even if they can’t express it correctly, or in a way that makes sense.

Source: RCVMHS, Interview with ‘Angelina’ (pseudonym), December 2020.

Note: *Name has been changed to protect privacy.