A dedicated single mum, Louise’s* story began 18 months ago when her daughter showed symptoms of mental ill health. Louise began the exhausting process of navigating the mental health care system, while becoming the primary carer for her daughter.
“I remember the day it started. My daughter called me and said ‘Mum, I think I might have psychological problems.’ She was 25 at the time and I did what any parent would do – I found her help,” Louise said.
After a consultation with their family GP, Louise’s daughter was referred to a psychiatrist for treatment. In the months that followed, Louise watched on as her daughter’s condition rapidly deteriorated.
What had started as irregular episodes of psychosis spilled over into everyday life, and Louise felt helpless as her daughter experienced paranoia and social withdrawals.
In the following 12 months, Louise’s daughter was hospitalised four times.
“I had no idea what was going on with her treatment, I was given extremely limited information by her treating psychiatrist. I felt completely left in the dark,” Louise said.
During the last admission to hospital, Louise called to check in on her daughter. The hospital said she was on family leave. Alarm bells sounded for Louise – no family had gone to visit her daughter that day. After a frantic search, Louise found her daughter – dozens of kilometres from the hospital – alone, distressed, and confused.
Louise decided then that she wouldn’t put up with substandard care for her daughter any more.
“We asked the hospital to help us find a new psychiatrist, but they refused to provide any details about their treating psychiatrists. So together with our GP, we found one ourselves. And suddenly, everything changed.
“In the first consultation, our family was involved in the process to put together a plan for my daughter. I thought to myself ‘Finally – we have a plan.’ Since then we’ve developed confidence as a family, and my daughter is on her way to recovery.
“If we hadn’t fought as hard as we did for second opinions, for more information, for a different diagnosis, for different treatment providers, I dread to think what would have happened. I feel incredibly lucky to still have my daughter alive,” Louise said.
Louise feels despair that what happened to her family is happening to others around Australia, completely unnecessarily.
Louise hopes for a mental health care system that includes the carers and families of Australians experiencing mental ill health, by providing support and education, and keeping them informed.
“Until then, I want other carers to feel empowered. Ask questions, push hard for answers, expect a mental health plan and hold on to hope – hope is so important,” she said.
We thank Louise for sharing her story with us.
*Louise’s name has been changed at her request.
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.