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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Aynur and Hafize Coskun

Aynur and Hafize Coskun are mother and daughter. Andy, their husband and father, respectively, migrated to Australia as a child and went on to build a life here. He died as a result of suicide after experiencing depression and psychological distress. Aynur and Hafize described Andy as being intelligent, smart, raw and loud. They said that he could get along with anyone.

But according to Aynur, everything changed in 2017:

Andy came up to me and said ‘Honey, I feel funny. There’s something funny inside me; something is wrong inside’. He kept saying, ‘There’s something black. You don’t understand’. He couldn’t explain it to me.

Aynur and Hafize reflected that they come from a tight‑knit community, but that they felt so much judgment after Andy’s suicide. All of a sudden, people were looking for a reason and something to blame it on. Aynur recalled that time:

We were not completely isolated, but we felt isolated from the community, because we felt so much judgement. The kids stopped going to Friday prayers. Going into crowded places like the mosque was hard, because we felt judged. People don’t whisper quietly … I needed someone to talk to, but no‑one understood.

In our religion, if a person takes his life, he’s not accepted. You can’t even do a prayer for your loved one and bury him.

After Andy’s death, the family had many visitors—family, friends, neighbours, people from the community, people from the footy club and Andy’s work. Aynur reflected that many of them cannot understand mental health, so they would speculate about other reasons for his suicide. ‘It just showed that there is not enough awareness about mental health,’ she said.

Aynur and Hafize said Andy had repeatedly sought help through the public mental health system, and had seen various health professionals in the lead up to his death, but he found the process very frustrating, as did the family. They did not get any information as carers about how to support or care for Andy at home.

The hospital should have given us information. Even a pamphlet or a key contact number would have been helpful. There were enough of us in the room that if one of the doctors had said something to one of us, then one person would have picked up on what the other person didn’t. They could have told us what to Google.

Despite all of the frustrations, grief and loss, the family has used their experience to raise awareness in their community. Aynur told the Commission:

Having been through this, our family wants to raise awareness about mental health. [M]y son has hosted some fundraising boxing matches, and online challenges.

But I think that there is a flaw in the system that is not simply a funds issue … All the money in the world is not going to fix the issues. We need to fix the problem … [T]he systems are already in place—they’re just not working properly.

Source: Joint Witness Statement of Aynur Coskun and Hafize Coskun, 29 May 2020.