"When we needed help the most!"

About: Maroondah Hospital / Mental Health Triage

(as a carer),

I am a full time carer of my autistic teenage son. I have been home-schooling my son since he went through a traumatic experience of being bullied by some other students at a local mainstream school. Around the same time he was diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder his mental health declined and began cutting himself so I decided to home school him and we have both had a wonderful experience with both Child Youth Mental Health (CYMHS) and Anglicare. Although he had become more isolated as each month went by, he told me he felt different, stupid and couldn't communicate with other people except me. Recently he was very quiet and wouldn't move, staring into the wall in a daze and I went out to buy him dinner, but when I came back I witnessed something I had feared but prayed it wouldn't happen. I opened his bedroom door to find my son hanging from a self-made noose (tied around his neck). The chair he jumped from had fallen beneath him. He was struggling and crying. I pulled him down after untying the noose and we both cried in each other's arms all night. I promised him I would get him help. (I later wished I hadn't promised or assumed help would be available). I decided to watch him all night, I would be on night duty and if I had fallen asleep, I tried so hard not to! My older son agreed to take over the monitoring. We all felt shock and sadness, then I looked on Internet and found the Eastern Health Mental Health triage number, once a nurse put me though to a male staff member that night, I answered his questions first, my name, address etc. Then told him exactly what I saw. I told him the only reason my son was alive is because I had walked in that very moment and now he is under my 24 hour surveillance, that he was still quiet, crying and pacing. The Triage man then replied - what do you expect me to do about it? No discussion before this, just those cruel words echoing in my ears. There was a long silence before I burst out crying in response, then asked him if I had the right number. Was I mistaken, I'm thinking I called the mental health hospital? I realised this man didn't care if my son hung himself, or if he succeeds in his next attempt, if I do fall asleep and can't watch him. I know my son will die and there is no help for us at the Maroondah Hospital. I couldn't bring myself to tell him about the phone call. I don't know what to do if/when he kills himself, but I know I will fight for other autistic kids who are suffering as much as my family is and then have the burden of being treated like we are wasting the time of the mental health staff at Maroondah. My son, his brother and I couldn't get help for his suicide attempt, but please, please don't please don't let another family suffer alone.

Responses

Response from David Plunkett, Chief Executive, Eastern Health

picture of David Plunkett

Dear Brokenfamily34

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback on your experience with the Eastern Health mental health service regarding your son. I would like to apologise that your experience was not a positive one and would like to assure you that we would like to urgently review what is happening for you and your son.

Could I ask that you make contact with the Eastern Health Centre for Patient Experience on 1800 EASTERN so we can get, confidentially, your details and take it from there.

Again, please accept my apologies and I hope we will be able to improve things for you, your son and family in the immediate period.

Kind regards

David

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