Chris Ison

Mum: Ongoing battle with the system set son up for failure

WHEN Jo Jensen's son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002, she never expected it to be harder to deal with Queensland's mental health system than the illness itself.

Jo's son is now 37 and has been in and out of hospital for the past 14 years.

During that time the Rockhampton woman says the system had set her son up for failure and isn't sure he will ever recover.

"It is exhausting. I am exhausted," Jo said.

"I am pretty tired but Mat isn't my battle, the mental health system is.

"I can cope with Mat but I can't with this… it is like they can't hear you."

Most recently the dedicated mother faced an issue with the Rockhampton Hospital's Mental Health Unit, after her son was discharged into the Community Care Unit on November 17 following an admission of just two weeks.

Jo (pictured) claims Mat was discharged "far too early" and was not placed on a full dosage of his antipsychotic medication clozapine.

"Mathew has been admitted previously on many occasions for lengthy periods of up to six weeks," she said.

"Mathew was not stable when he was discharged and found the sudden admittance to CCU overwhelming, after being acutely unwell, discharged from hospital one day then independent living the next.

"Unfortunately when Mathew was discharged, I was not informed or asked to attend a family meeting to discuss this matter."

Jo said her son's health deteriorated over the next few weeks and he quickly became reclusive and isolated himself in the unit. After a series of events including testing positive for marijuana, a second hospital admission, outstanding pharmacy payments and an alleged hospital error resulting in more than $1000 in rental arrears - Jo said Mat reached the end of his tether.

Come April, he packed up and left Rockhampton for the Gold Coast on a whim.

"I could not contact him and he has gone to the Gold Coast and he had no accommodation of course and he is just living in parks, showering at the showers at beaches and couldn't charge his phone," Jo said.

"I don't know how it is going to end up. It never ends well. It always ends in me going there and rescuing him.

"Think he is in a caravan park. He has sent a text so I know he is still alive. This is a result of all of this."

Jo said she would like to see changes made to the mental health system, to make it more inclusive, collaborative and consistent.

"I find they put barriers up whenever I ask a few questions or need to advocate for him," she said.

"I don't know where Mat would be if I hadn't been in his life. He would probably be dead.

"There have been so many times where he has been so psychotic… it takes too long. They do an assessment and send him home… we're all unsafe. It is crazy and there is chaos.

"I want to highlight the issues surrounding what has recently happened and hope they address them and change it for the future for others. It is not working. And I am sure I am not the only one."

Ngari Bean, Director Community Programs and Allied Health, Central Queensland Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Service at the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service said she could not publicly comment on individual cases.

"I acknowledge Ms Jensen's frustration and I am sorry she feels her family has not been supported by our service," she said.

"Treatment options for every mental health consumer are determined by a dedicated team of mental health clinicians using evidence-based assessment in line with contemporary mental health standards.

"Our aim is to provide a supportive service to help individuals in their recovery. Where possible we work with family members during this process, within our legal obligations for the confidentiality of consumers. (This is legislated under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011.)"

Ms Bean said The Community Care Unit was a valuable tool for the community, providing a supportive environment to help consumers return to independent living.

"Residents are free to come and go as they choose, but with 24/7 support from trained mental health professionals," she said.

"They are encouraged to participate in activities, but in the spirit of returning to independence they are not forced to attend."