Walking for Dave
Campaigning for better mental health services
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.
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.