Geoff became the primary carer for his teenage daughter, Ruby, when her mental health began to deteriorate at the age of 13. Over the next five years Ruby was repeatedly admitted to hospital. During her last admission, despite telling staff she felt at risk, she was discharged. Ruby took her own life just hours later- she was 18. Geoff has been fighting for change ever since.
Geoff lost his 18-year-old daughter, Ruby, to suicide almost five years ago.
It was a desperately sad end to Ruby’s journey through the mental health care system that began at 13 when she became unwell. By the time Ruby was 18, she had been admitted more than 30 times to psychiatric wards.
“The care she received in the system as an adolescent was good – I absolutely credit those who treated her throughout that period with prolonging and enriching her life,” Geoff said.
However, when Ruby turned 18 and was transferred from adolescent to adult care, her journey became a revolving door of treating professionals.
“When she entered the system as an adult, things changed. There was no communication any more, the people treating her didn’t seem to take Ruby’s or my wishes into account,” Geoff said.
“It was her first admission to hospital as an adult that ended up being her last.”
Geoff will never forget the last conversation he had with his daughter.
“I knew she was going to die on the day she was discharged from hospital. I’d called them and pleaded with them to keep her in their care as I was interstate for work, to keep her there until I could get back. I pleaded with them, Ruby pleaded with them, but they discharged her anyway,” he recalls.
“When Ruby was little and she would ask to do something that was out of the question, I’d always respond ‘We’ll see’.
“The day she was discharged, she called me and she was distressed. I begged her to go back to the hospital and ask to be admitted again to the emergency ward. She calmly told me ‘We’ll see’. When she hung up, I knew I’d never hear her voice again,” he said.
The coroner investigated the hospital that discharged Ruby after an intensive media campaign by Geoff, as five similar deaths occurred there over a 12-month period. The report from that coronial inquest has now been released, and paints a damning picture of the systemic failures that led to Ruby’s death.
“One of the biggest issues identified by the report was the lack of communication between Ruby’s treating professionals and her primary carer – me,” Geoff said.
“I put the pressure on for a coronial inquiry into the hospital because it was important to me that the issues were identified, so that no family had to go through what I’ve been through.”
Geoff remains committed to fighting for better mental health care for every Australian, to ensure that no more families go through the unnecessary loss of a loved one- especially a child.
We thank Geoff for sharing his story with us.
All stories are shared with direct permission, as part of Share Your Story month.
If you, or someone you know, requires assistance or needs to talk to someone, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.