Politics — 28 November 2012

A six-month waiting list for places at the Barrett Adolescent Centre has  developed, says the mother of a client at the Wacol youth mental health  facility.

And one young person waiting to get a spot has recently committed  suicide.

The centre is now threatened with closure by the state government

A meeting of 30 mental health staff – including West Moreton Hospital and  Health board chief executive Lesley Dwyer – was told on November 9 that a young  person on the waiting list had recently committed suicide.

Justine is the mother of a 16-year-girl who travelled from Townsville to  Brisbane two years ago because she was accepted into the Queensland Health  centre in Brisbane’s southwest.

Her daughter, Mary (not her real name), was referred to the Barrett Centre  from the Townsville private mental health operator Headspace, which does not run  long-stay mental health centres.

Mary’s situation was identified by a child mental health specialist.

The teenager had done several modelling shoots. She is bright and articulate  and is now 16.

Anxiety and worsening panic attacks caused her to self harm and burn  cigarettes into her arm to ‘‘feel something’’.

‘‘I moved to Brisbane this year,’’ her mother said.

‘‘I got a job down here so I was finally able to be with my daughter who has  been at Barrett since the beginning of January 2011.

‘‘But she really started getting sick about two years before that.’’

Justine said her daughter’s sickness started when she refused to go to school  after she was badly bullied.

‘‘She actually got punched at school – she was a very gentle, quite child – well she was then, she is not much like that now,’’ she said.

‘‘She was punched, her pens were stolen and broken, her lunch box stolen. I  was there when kids said the most awful things to her.’’

More serious problems emerged in high school. Psychotic episodes began.

‘‘I guess by then the illness started kicking in and she started having panic  attacks,’’ Justine said.

Self harm and cutting became part of Mary’s way of life.

‘‘The reason why they self harm is because they don’t feel anything. So they  self-harm to actually feel something.’’

In Townsville she was seeing the mental specialist four times a week.

Justine is now very proud of her daughter. The self-harm has stopped.

She is able to come ‘home’ from the Barrett to see her mother twice a  week.

‘‘She is incredibly beautiful. I was going to send you a photograph because  she did a model shoot not long ago. And she has done a few model shots.’’

Justine has a message for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and Education  Minister John Paul Langbroek, who are considering closing the Barrett  Centre.

‘‘The reason why they referred us to the Barrett was because my daughter had  a couple of episodes, psychotic episodes,’’ she said.

‘‘And there was nowhere to put her. She went into an acute mental health  ward, which is just awful for a child when she 14, 15, even 16.’’

Justine says there is no other place in Queensland like the Barrett.

‘‘Kids when they have these episodes go into these short-term acute centres,  which don’t actually help them. They come out again,’’ she said.

‘‘Barrett (staff) have actually told me stories of kids that have actually  committed suicide because they can’t get into Barrett.

‘‘And they keep going in and out and in and out of adult psychiatric  hospitals.’’

Fairfax Media understands Queensland Health plans to close the Barrett Centre  and transfer the young people to short-term acute mental care centres at the  Mater and Logan hospitals.

Queensland Voice – Queensland’s peak body for mental health patients and  carers – said the decision to close the Barrett Centre at Wacol was wrong.

President Noel Muller said the plans to shift adolescents to acute centres in  hospitals were very concerning.

‘‘These are extremely vulnerable young people by definition,’’ he said.

‘‘The thought of putting them in adult services is very, very  short-sighted.

‘‘That is not casting aspersions against adult services, but adult services  are for adults.’’

Justine said she had no concerns for her daughter’s safety at the Barrett  Centre at Wacol.

‘‘There is two big golf courses, there’s lakes, there’s people who come and  play cricket on the ground every weekend and they are opening up the police  academy a stones throwaway,’’ she said.

‘‘And it is beautiful. It is the most beautiful place to be because there is  trees and kangaroos just everywhere.’’

Justine said the real issue was the need for a new centre if the Barrett  Centre closed.

‘‘If they are going to close the Barrett, they have to have somewhere else to  put these kids.’’

As first appeared in Brisbane Tmes. Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/youth-commits-suicide-on-mental-health-wait-list-20121122-29tck.html#ixzz2DUE6igdf


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