Walk­ing for Dave

Cam­paign­ing for bet­ter men­tal health ser­vices

Seymour Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim­ber­ley Price

When Dave Drum­mond took his own life in Oc­to­ber 2016, it left his par­ents dev­as­tated.

But in their grief, his par­ents Liane and Tony Drum­mond have some­how found the strength not only to get up, but to walk, and to keep walk­ing, for 10 000 km.

The pain of los­ing their only child to sui­cide has seen the cou­ple cam­paign for im­proved men­tal health ser­vices in Aus­tralia and walk the in­cred­i­ble dis­tance around the coun­try to raise aware­ness in their cam­paign Walk for Sun­shine.

‘‘In Oc­to­ber, 2016, my son and only child sui­cided and we were left dev­as­tated be­yond words,’’ Mrs Drum­mond said.

In the hours fol­low­ing, Mrs Drum­mond suf­fered a heart at­tack. She was well cared for and given a bed in a hospi­tal im­me­di­ately. How­ever the same couldn’t be done for Dave.

‘‘Dave had only one pre­sen­ta­tion to a hospi­tal, which was ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­tense and stress­ful. He was then man­aged in-home with a com­mu­nity cri­sis sup­port ser­vice,’’ Mrs Drum­mond said.

‘‘They de­cided not to give him a bed af­ter an at­tempt.

‘‘And then he tried again and then they tried to get a bed for him and they couldn’t get a bed.

‘‘He was trans­ferred some­where else and they dis­charged him less than 24 hours later.

‘‘He didn’t sui­cide straight away — there was quite a large gap — but peo­ple who have at­tempted sui­cide are 200 times more at risk of at­tempt­ing sui­cide in the fu­ture.

‘‘I’ve worked in health care, not men­tal health, and I had some as­sump­tions of what that would look like.

‘‘When I dis­cov­ered what the re­al­ity was, I felt the need to re­ally do some­thing about it.

‘‘What my heart at­tack high­lighted to me was we do phys­i­cal ill­ness re­ally well, but when my son had a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness that was a men­tal ill­ness, it just wasn’t the same, he just wasn’t catered for.’’

The Drum­monds then de­cided to go for a walk around Aus­tralia to garner com­mu­nity sup­port. Even though the 10 000 km may have been com­pleted, the Drum­monds’ ad­vo­cacy is not.

The cou­ple are trav­el­ling to Can­berra to speak to four politi­cians about men­tal health care in Aus­tralian and the find­ings from their trav­els — Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt, op­po­si­tion Men­tal Health Min­is­ter Julie Collins, Greens Men­tal Health spokesman Rachel Siew­ert and Aged Care and In­dige­nous Min­is­ter Tim White.

‘‘The sit­u­a­tion is so des­per­ate in men­tal health — it needs to be a higher pri­or­ity,’’ Mr Drum­mond said.

‘‘It seems the stigma is get­ting less for the younger gen­er­a­tions. But for the older ones, it’s still some­thing that doesn’t seem to be talked about.

‘‘We met a guy in his 60s and he had men­tal health is­sues all his life and had never talked to any­one about it.

‘‘His wife was just in tears and she said she’s known about it but this was the first time he’d opened up and spo­ken about it.

‘‘For the older gen­er­a­tion there still seems to be a stigma — espe­cially with men.’’

The Drum­monds hope that by mak­ing their jour­ney pub­lic, they can not only im­prove the health ser­vices avail­able to men­tal health pa­tients, but also break the stigma at­tached to this is­sue which af­fects so many Aus­tralians.

● If this story has raised per­sonal is­sues or emo­tions, phone Life­line Aus­tralia on 131 114 or Be­yond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Pic­tures: Steve Huntley

Wor­thy cause: Liane Drum­mond, to­gether with her hus­band Tony, walked 10 000 km in hon­our of their son Dave to raise aware­ness of men­tal health fund­ing short­falls and high sui­cide num­bers. Right: Ms Drum­mond ar­rived in Sey­mour on Oc­to­ber 6, be­fore fin­ish­ing in Melbourne two days later.

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