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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Leona Coleman

After experiencing mental health and addiction issues for some time, Leona* committed a serious offence. She was found not guilty due to mental impairment and placed on a custodial supervision order at Thomas Embling Hospital.

Prior to the commission of the offence, Leona had been admitted to a mental health facility four times, including a two‑month stay in the year the offence was committed. Despite trying a range of medications, Leona had been quite unwell in the lead‑up to the offence.

When I think about my offence I feel like I had hit rock bottom, like the light inside me went out. It felt like I had charcoal in my chest and I lived like that for years and years. It was not me that night. It was a different person. I know I have to live with what I did and that really hurts.

During her time at Thomas Embling Hospital she was put on a combination of medications which she said have ‘kept me well for a number of years now’. At Thomas Embling Hospital, Leona was able to access a range of treatments including a psychologist, group therapy, and a drug and alcohol group, which she said was very helpful.

Leona was able to transition slowly back into the community and now lives independently with the help of some community‑based supports. Leona lives in stable accommodation, which has also been a great way for her to maintain her health and wellbeing.

I still receive treatment and support in the community. I am on medication and see a counsellor who is really great … I also see my local area mental health service who have worked with me to help me identify my early warning signs. It is my responsibility to keep myself well. I have a good National Disability Insurance Scheme package. I do singing lessons and art classes once a week. I have a cleaner and a gardener that helps me with my plants out in the courtyard. I also have a kitten which has changed my life. I am hoping to start a family soon.

Leona advocates for more facilities to support people to stay well in the long term.

There should be a Thomas Embling in the community. A facility where you can check in and constantly get support, medication, group therapy, workshops and courses. All these things help you learn more about yourself and what you are feeling.

Source: Witness Statement of ‘Leona Coleman’ (pseudonym), 4 May 2020.

Note: *Name has been changed in accordance with an order made by the Commission.