Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 2 December 2021) . . Page.. 4111 ..
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.36): I am not going to make a comment in my role as an MLA here. I am going to read out a very personal account, an anonymous account, from one of my constituents:
Mine and my family’s experience with my husband’s issue with mental health and substance use disorders have resulted in years of frustration, helplessness, and isolation. After being diagnosed with severe generalised anxiety and moderate depression in 2016, despite displaying symptoms for a number of years, we have been navigating the rollercoaster of services, or lack of services, for many years.
Despite regularly seeing his GP and a psychologist fortnightly and seeing a psychiatrist, costing thousands of dollars, my husband unfortunately turned to alcohol to self-medicate. This self-medication increased over the years, resulting in a severe addiction which has now caused a number of issues.
Firstly, physically: a number of physical issues, such as pancreatitis; cirrhosis of the liver; insulin-dependent diabetes; epilepsy; and a number of falls, including one in Canberra Hospital, resulting in a stay in ICU and multiple surgeries.
Secondly, financially: dealing with multiple ambulance bills; medications for issues that could be prevented with appropriate support and care; and lack of income from inability to work.
And thirdly, emotionally: as a family who is having to navigate the system alone and only encountering roadblocks in getting assistance, with no hope of actually accessing anything. It has been frustrating and demoralising and makes us feel utterly unsupported and alone.
On average, over the past three years, he has been hospitalised eight times a year. Each time he has been hospitalised, we have been frustrated by the lack of support and assistance; the lack of communication with family members, particularly during COVID when no visitors were permitted; as well as lack of communication provided between departments in ACT Health and Canberra Hospital, which has meant that his comorbid issues have not been even looked at, let alone addressed or treated.
Each time he has been hospitalised, only his physical issues were treated, leaving him discharged more vulnerable and in a worse state with his mental health and addiction. The most recent example was when he was hospitalised only one month ago. He was taken to hospital by ambulance on the night of 31 October. The next morning, he begged for the alcohol and drug team to visit and to be admitted to the detox ward. He was visited in the emergency department and told there was no availability, and was discharged with no support or information. He did not make it off the hospital grounds before he collapsed, and a member of the public found him and called an ambulance, which transported him back to emergency less than eight hours after he was discharged.
The next morning at 5 am, he called because they wanted to discharge him again. Concerned for his welfare, I spoke to the nurse on duty and asked them to do a mental health assessment due to what had happened the previous night, worried he would again try to hurt himself. The nurse agreed. However, less than an hour