‘I DON’T TRUST THE SYSTEM’: Family speak out on tragic loss
IT TOOK a 14-year-old teenager's suicide to flag the lack of mental health support in the South Burnett region.
After Alicia and Aaron Hall's daughter Harmony took her own life, the Nanango parents have expressed how disappointed they are in the healthcare system.
Their football-loving, school-leading, athletic daughter committed suicide in April this year, just four months after she was deemed a "low risk" to see a psychiatrist.
They say there was severe bullying at school, a last-minute cancellation of an appointment with a psychologist and multiple failed help-seeking attempts in the period leading up to Harmony to taking her own life in April.
Seven months after her death, Alicia is working to start a fund to boost awareness in the South Burnett, and secure more mental health experts for the region.
The family told Harmony's story to the South Burnett Times, about how it took just four months from being deemed "low risk" to committing suicide.
Harmony was seen by mental health professionals at the Kingaroy Hospital who after an assessment told the family there was no need to come back.
She then had two sessions with South Burnett CTC who were not funded to treat mental health, Alicia said her daughter was told there was nothing more they could do.
Harmony was scheduled for a video link appointment with a psychologist, but five minutes before it was due to start, the appointment was cancelled.
Harmony's councillor was subsequently told she wasn't "high risk" and there was no need to reschedule the appointment, Alicia said.
Harmony was then booked into a paediatrician, but the wait time was 12 months.
She was eventually prescribed medication by a doctor and Alicia said nothing really eventuated after that.
"The system let her down, they don't take these kids seriously," Alicia said.
"I do hold the mental health system accountable for my daughter's death.
"I want the mental health system to start taking this seriously because it was my daughter's life they have played with and it is happening to lots of families.
"We felt like we ran out of options, we were told she wasn't high enough risk to see a psychiatrist and then four months later she suicided."
The Burnett region is currently in the middle of a major mental health crisis with a report released this week by the Australian Institute of Welfare and Health earmarking the Burnett as Queensland's suicide capital.
Between 2015-2019, suicide tragically claimed 67 lives across the South, Central and North Burnett, shattering communities and irreversibly changing lives forever.
According to the report individuals are more likely to kill themselves in the Burnett than anywhere else in Queensland, with more suicide deaths per capita than anywhere else in the state.
These preventable deaths continue to cover the region in a constant blanket of grief as people fail to navigate Burnett's broken mental health system.
Alicia said because of everything that happened, she had major trust issues with the region's mental health system.
"I don't trust the system at the moment, there are a lot of trust issues for all of us," she said.
"There is one person at the hospital who has been with my son since Harmony's accident and she has been the only person who hasn't given up, going above and beyond to help Jack.
"On the other hand, I don't trust it, I don't feel comfortable going to it knowing it has let my daughter down twice.
"My husband and I are angry at the system and so is our son. The two younger ones don't quite understand it all yet, but there is a lot of hurt, anger and trust issues in the family."
Alicia remembers Harmony for her ability to light up a room with her infectious smile, her bubbly personality and her ability to find her inner mongrel on the football field.
She was a talented athlete, Indigenous school leader and sister to her brother Jack and two younger sisters.
Alicia said the region needs more mental health experts.
"I am working to set up a fund in Harmony's honour to raise money to get a psychiatrist out here to help the youth struggling with mental health," she said.
"We need psychiatrists, psychologists, paediatricians and a mental health youth worker who can talk to kids when they want to commit suicide."
The Australian Medical Association Queensland president, Associate Professor Chris Perry said for some time, the AMA Queensland had been calling for increased funding, subsidised training and greater support for mental health and addiction medicine training for doctors around Queensland.
"These medical workforce issues are certainly more significant and problematic in regional communities and we are lobbying for Rural Generalists to specifically be supported in enhanced training in mental health, pain management and addiction medicine," Mr Perry said.
"Addressing this need would certainly be a major step towards increasing the capacity of doctors to help vulnerable members of our community who may be at risk of suicide and potentially save lives."
The President of the Regional Medical Specialists Association, Dr Peter Hughes said nearly one-third of Australians live outside of the Metropolitan area, yet those areas lack specialists.
"Australia produces among the highest number of medical graduates per head of population in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Half of these doctors become General Practitioners, and the rest go on to train as specialists, yet only a small fraction of these specialists live and work outside of the Metropolitan areas" Dr Hughes said.
"There are nearly ten times the number of specialists per 100,00 population in the Metropolitan areas compared to the density of specialists in the country areas.
"Regional centres, often hundreds of kilometres from major Metropolitan hospitals, need specialist surgeons, physicians, paediatricians, obstetricians, intensivists and psychiatrists staffing their hospitals around the clock."
If this story raised any concern for you help is available over the phone through Lifeline (13 11 14), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), Headspace (1800 650 890) or Kids Helpline (1800 551 800).