The Most Haunting Stories Of The Mental Health Royal Commission
Multiple suicide attempts, ants crawling inside skulls, basic GP failures -- just some of the harrowing stories told at Victoria's groundbreaking royal commission into the mental health system.
The inquiry has heard haunting stories from people whose lives have been disrupted by mental illness, and the multiple barriers to getting help that people face everyday.
Friday was the last day of the Royal Commission. It heard from a woman speaking under the pseudonym Nina Edwards, told how she believed she had ants crawling around inside her skull. She complained that she was failed by multiple GPs when she sought help.
"When I told them things like 'there are ants in my head, I'm seeing nooses everywhere, I can't cope any more...they wouldn't really engage," she said.
Edwards claimed doctors at bulk-billing centres would simply give her more anti-depressant medication.
"I found the ED [emergency department] to be a place I could go because the chaos of the room there matched the chaos of my inner psychology...the noises in my head were muffled," she said.
The Royal Commission was launched by the state Labor government, with the intention of providing a clear set of actions to improve Victoria's mental healthcare system.
More than 90 witnesses, including health experts and members of the public, have discussed stigma, suicide prevention and barriers to getting help --- such as location and culture -- over the three weeks of hearings.
A recurring theme has been a lack of help or monitoring between visits to the emergency or mental health wards.
Amelia Morris, who spoke to the Commission on July 5 to discuss suicide prevention and early mental illness intervention, said one of the main problems she encountered with the mental health system when she was experiencing suicidal ideation was that "when I asked for help, it felt like there was nothing there".
Morris, diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety, discussed her suicide attempt as a teenager in 2015 and years of following treatment, including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to treat her depression.
However, Morris said she experienced an abject lack of any "follow up or communication" between admissions into wards for TMS treatment.
"There was nothing for me in between primary care and the emergency department," she said.
Another witness, Susan Trotter, spoke about her son's long-term struggles with severe mental illness. Trotter said her son, Rowan, attempted suicide a total of 26 times before his death.
Rowan began experiencing behavioural problems at age five, and was unable to work due to a borderline intellectual disability, as well as bipolar and borderline personality disorder.
Trotter said he was often only taken into emergency care for 24 hours at a time after suicide attempts.
"Despite all of this, in family meetings and at the hospitals I was told that Rowan was an attention seeker who would not take his own life," she said.
"Throughout the whole journey I trusted the mental health system and I feel like the system let him down."
The Andrews Labor government has committed to implementing all the inquiry's recommendations when it hands down its findings in October of next year.
An interim report from the Commission is due by November 30 this year.