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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

David and his daughter

David* first took his daughter, Simone,* to see a psychologist when she was in primary school following some developmental delays and what he describes as symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They took advantage of a mental health care plan from their GP but started paying for services when they had used up the free services provided under the plan.

Simone struggled to keep up at school, and David described the ‘cracks’ that she began falling into.

She was not bad enough to get funding for help, but she was not quite right either.

David said Simone’s condition became worse when she started high school, and a series of hospital visits and treatments began. Simone has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, oppositional defiant disorder, autism, bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and anorexia.

Simone took [a range of medications] […]. Some did nothing. Some seemed to make things worse. At one stage they were considering shock therapy. And we were desperate for help so would have tried it if we thought it would work.

David described a system that failed to help Simone and took a toll on his family emotionally and financially. It left his family to make impossible choices—including leaving Simone at hospital so alternative accommodation for her would be found.

We live with that drive home from the hospital every day and will never forgive ourselves for having to make a choice in which there was no choice.

David is still trying to make sense of a long and complicated experience that has left him
with no hope.

An often-repeated explanation is that the system has ‘cracks’ and that people will fall through them. I don’t know if Simone is just unlucky to continually step on those cracks, or if the cracks are so wide that you cannot avoid them. The more time passes, the more I am convinced it is the latter.

Source: Interim Report, November 2019

Note: *Names have been changed to protect privacy.