My daughter was a premature baby. She was very small. I was sick before she was born and after her birth I got post-natal depression. It was a very hard time. She cried all the time.
I didn’t get any support services when I arrived in Australia even though I was worried that she was delayed in her talking.
My daughter was a good student at school. She was an excellent violinist; the best at the school. However, she was always a very introverted child.
When she was 10 years old and in year three we noticed something was wrong. My daughter was crying all day and was very sad. We saw a GP and he referred me to a psychiatrist. I was worried she was too young to see a psychiatrist so I tried alternative methods.
In Year 7 the sadness started to be a real issue. She began to self-harm and skipped school a lot. I tried to access government mental health services, to no avail. In the end we booked her in to see a private psychiatrist but the wait was 4 weeks. It was very hard to cope as I believed she was going to commit suicide.
In Year 8 she started drinking alcohol and smoking pot. The school never addressed these issues. At this point in time a psychiatrist put her on anti-depressants.
At the start of year 10 she refused to go back to school. The school decided it would be best for her if she was enrolled in the Work Link vocational program which is a Tafe course together with a school curriculum. However, this course meant she jumped a year ahead and this was not a good idea. She finished the Tafe component but did not finish the school component.
Around this time we swapped psychiatrists. He diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder and admitted her into a drug and alcohol program.
Recently, she has tried a few Tafe courses. She is now taking stronger drugs and has been in trouble with the law. We are now attending court every month.
Now she refuses all care, and even if she wanted care we can’t access any. She is only prescribed medication from the GP.
What I need to say is that I find it very difficult to access any specialized health care for mental health. It is a nightmare. In emergency you have to wait too long. My daughter wants to leave the emergency department before she is admitted. We have found it very difficult to find services for both her mental health and drug and alcohol issues.
My advice is you need to be really persistent and obnoxious to get care. I find this really hard. You also have to be strong enough to hang in there and to not give up. I believe that is why she is still here because we didn’t give up; even though you sometimes want to. You also need to get as much information as you can on services.
I also see a connection between my daughter’s mental illness and other family members (from my side and also from my husband’s side). I strongly believe there is a genetic factor to her mental illness even though I was told several times that this doesn’t exist. It is essential to not give in to a guilt complex. So many people point the finger at the parents and blame them for the problems which arise with “out-of-control” teenagers, without ever taking into account that there might exist a mental health issue.
So it is ultimately a very lonely path.