Suicide attempt survivor Rod Jackson and his wife Jenny at the royal commission hearing in Melbourne. (ABC News: James Bennett)
Victorian police get a psychiatric crisis call every 12 minutes, top officer tells inquiry
Rod Jackson tried take his own life, once.
- Half of the Victorians, who died by suicide between 2009 and 2015, were in contact with mental health services in their final six weeks of life
- More than 97,000 people were impacted by the 720 suicides in Victoria last year
- Rod Jackson credits the Men’s Shed movement for helping his recovery after his suicide attempt
Then, while awaiting treatment in the hospital, he could see out to some train tracks.
He thought about it again, he told Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health this morning.
“Something in me told me not to,” he told the Royal Commission.
“I knew if I did that, I was being selfish, it was signing my family up for a life of pain and regret,” he told the ABC, his wife Jenny by his side.
Mr Jackson’s story is a happy one — but for the families of several thousand Australians who die by suicide each year, it is not.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
“It is estimated that for every suicide, more than one 135 people suffer intense grief,” counsel assisting the commission, Lisa Nicholls, told the inquiry.
“In considering suicide prevention, it’s also important to consider the ripple effect that suicide has on family, friends, colleagues, and the broader community.”
Multiply that by the 720 Victorians who, according to the state’s suicide register, suicided in 2018, and the number of people grieving grows to 97,200 each year.
The comments came at the outset of two days of hearings focussed on the royal commission’s biggest objective — reducing the number of suicide deaths.
‘All I think about is ‘why?’
Susan Trotter, who gave evidence under a pseudonym in a closed hearing of the Royal Commission, said her son Rohan was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and short term memory loss as a teenager.
“He was always fighting his demons,” she told the commission.
At the age of 28, he became a father.
“He said to me ‘I promise you mum, now that I have him, I will never try’ [to take his own life],” she said.
Around Christmas time in 2010, Rohan became distraught, his mother said, when his by-then ex-wife sought to restrict Rohan’s access to their son.
“If I can’t see my son, I don’t want to be here,” Ms Trotter said he had told her.
On that Christmas day, Rohan took his life.
“For the rest of my life all I think about is ‘why?’ ‘if,’ ‘but,’ ‘if only,'” Ms Trotter told the commissioners.
‘Breaks my heart’
Jeremy Dwyer manages Victoria’s suicide register at the state’s Coroners Court.
Mr Dywer told the commission his data showed 50 per cent of people who suicided in Victoria between 2009 and 2015 had been in contact with health services for mental health issues in the final six weeks of their lives.
“I think it means that any improvements in mental health services that emerge from the royal commission’s findings have the real potential to reduce suicide,” he said.
The implication was clear — do not waste this opportunity.
Victoria’s Government has said it will implement whatever the commission recommends.
Susan Trotter wants action on appropriate responses, testifying that on one occasion, she’d been told by a hospital worker her son was “an attention seeker” who “would never take his own life”.
“I keep seeing parents let down by the mental health system, which breaks my heart,” Ms Trotter said.
‘Men’s sheds are a lifeline’
Melbourne University Professor Jane Pirkis said hard data on effective interventions was difficult to gather, because of the ethical questions around trialling different approaches among at-risk people.
“The therapeutic approach is to give the person what is right for them, rather than trialling the efficacy of a particular intervention?” counsel assisting Ms Nichols asked her.
“Yes,” Professor Pirkis agreed.
“The contemporary solution is to try to deliver this suite of interventions,” she said.
Ms Pirkis added Australia was doing “about as well” as other countries when it came to tackling suicide.
“I don’t think anyone else has, no other countries have, demonstrably massively reduced their suicide rate,” she said.
But Mr Jackson said Men’s Sheds do work.
The real reason he came to give evidence wasn’t to talk about his attempted suicide, it was to celebrate the camaraderie at the Sunbury Men’s Shed, which he credits with helping him recover.
In his late 50s, Mr Jackson is among the highest risk category for suicide.
“Ninety per cent of all of the blokes are looking for companionship,” he said.
“Men’s sheds are a lifeline for those blokes.”
More coverage of the mental health royal commission
- Day 15: Royal commission hears terror attack revived painful childhood memories for South Sudanese refugee
- Day 14: LGBTQI people under-reporting mental illness due to ‘distrust and fear’, royal commission told
- Day 13: Victoria’s Aboriginal mental health services ‘lagging behind’, royal commission hears
- Day 12: ‘A joke’: Farmer travelled hundreds of kilometres to see psychiatrist, royal commission told
- Day 11: Anna wasn’t diagnosed with a mental illness until she went to prison for killing her roommate
- Day 10: Victoria police responding to a mental health call every 12 minutes, top officer tells inquiry
- Day Nine: Too sick for a GP, but not ‘sick enough for hospital’, patient tells mental health royal commission
- Day Eight: ‘I was threatened with involuntary admission’, mental health royal commission hears
- Day Seven: A ‘doubling of funding’ needed for Victoria’s struggling community mental health model, expert testifies
- Day Six: Victorian Government looks to mental health models in Italy and Netherlands
- Day Five: Compulsory treatment ‘gets a bad rep’ but it saved Erica’s life
- Day Four: Mental health royal commission hears suicidal young women was ‘greeted with silence’
- Day Three: Victoria’s mental health system failed ‘incredibly terrified’ girl, royal commission told
- Day Two: Advocate tells commission of Victoria’s ‘punitive’ mental health system
- Day One: Former AFL player tells of wanting to take his own life after winning premiership
- In-depth feature: Chloe left hospital in a daze with a handful of pamphlets. Two days later, she was back