We firmly believe that Josh’s suicide was preventable and that by fixing the problems in public mental health service that failed Josh, we can save other people’s lives.
So we are calling on the Queensland coroner to hold an inquest into Josh’s death, which you can sign here (the link is coming, hold your horses).
What exactly happened?
Here’s a bit of background into how Queensland’s public mental health service failed Josh:
On a Saturday night, three days before Josh took his own life, he went to the emergency department seeking help to calm his mind. He was not offered comfort but drug tested, made to wait 4 hours then told words to the effect ‘if we haven’t been able to help you so far, we won’t be able to fix you tonight’. At that point, he abandoned his attempt to seek help. No-one from the health service attempted to follow up with Josh personally. When they did it was too late. He had already taken his life, been resuscitated and was in intensive care. Josh never regained consciousness and died 11 days later.
Less than a year before taking his own life, Josh had gone to the emergency department to seek help but after a prolonged wait, he went into meltdown, ran away and immediately began a suicide attempt. Luckily, he was intercepted. He returned to the hospital by ambulance and was admitted. Yet no lessons were learned. No alerts were put on his file.
This near miss should never have been ignored. Under legislation, it should have been recorded as a clinical incident, identifying what what went wrong and taking corrective action to ensure it didn’t happen again. The incident did recur and Josh took his life within 3 days of another unsuccessful and abandoned visit to the emergency department.
Josh had Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD). He had repeated, sudden suicidal attacks yet despite the world’s foremost authority on Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood describing the condition in print, it was never acknowledged by the mental health service as a legitimate condition suffered by Josh. No alert was put on Josh’s file. No actions have been recommended to ensure all other people who require alerts have them on file. Until this is addressed, people will continue to slip through this safety measure.
Josh was not put under the ‘consumer suicide prevention pathway procedure’, despite the implementation of the scheme in 2016 as part of the Gold Coast Mental Health Suicide Prevention Strategy 2016-2018. No reasons or excuses have been given, except to say that it was still being rolled out (according to the strategy, it should have been implemented by July 2016). Until this omission is fully investigated and addressed people will continue to fall through this safety measure.
Around one year ago, Josh was deemed to need a ‘case worker for life’, but this support was withdrawn within a fortnight and Josh was relegated to Head Space (a service which relies on the sufferer being proactive, something Josh was known to be incapable of). This should never have happened. The Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service review has failed to recommend action that would ensure this does not happen again.
There were many more failures in Josh’s care that need to be addressed to prevent them from happening to others.
Inaction is costing lives. An average of 65 people take their own lives every year on the Gold Coast alone; that is more than one Gold Coaster every week. Many of these people do not have to die. Suicide is often preventable, programs overseas have proven this. Please sign the petition and share it on to everyone you know. Join us in stopping preventable suicides.
The day after Josh’s devastating visit to the Gold Coast University Hospital emergency department, he wrote the following note to himself and put it in a frame on his desk:
1. Love, 2. Peace, 3. Help the World. It will get better. Can only get better.
This message forms the foundation of Josh’s lasting legacy and his family have begun the movement #JoshsWish.