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Australia Mother calls for inquest into son's death in effort to improve mental health services

01:36  10 march  2018
01:36  10 march  2018 Source:

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Joshua Klumper died just days after seeking mental health help at a Gold Coast hospital. His mother says an inquest is needed to change the way patients are treated by health workers.

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Her 17-year-old son, Joshua Klumper, died last September just days after attempting to get mental health help at the Gold Coast University Hospital's emergency department.

More than 3,000 people have signed Ursula Skjonnemand's petition asking the state coroner to investigate the events leading up to Joshua's death.

She told ABC Radio Brisbane an internal review conducted by the hospital fell "significantly short" of preventing mistakes she has alleged health staff made.

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"We need to turn this tragedy into a learning experience so that the people that are in the system right now, struggling to keep their children alive, have a system that supports them rather than a system without compassion.

"The coroner is the one that has the power to make [a] recommendation for systemic change."

Hard for others to read emotions

Ms Skjonnemand claims Joshua's death could have been prevented if better patient history records were kept and more compassion had been shown when he presented to emergency seeking help.

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Joshua had Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

His mum said social situations took up a lot of his emotional energy and his "poker face" made it hard for others to read his emotions.

"Having an invisible disability causes a lot of difficulties with people understanding the seriousness of what's going on," Ms Skjonnemand said.

"You try to clear a path for your children and do the best you can.

"I've learned that a loving family is not enough — you need a loving community."

Just days before taking his own life, Joshua went to the hospital with his grandmother seeking help for a situation he'd been in before.

Ms Skjonnemand said he'd suffered what she called a "suicidal attack" 10 months earlier while waiting for help in another emergency room.

"He'd had 55 minutes being patient, waiting for help in emergency, and went into a meltdown.

"[He] came back in a paddy wagon and had to be tackled to stop him from taking his life.

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In the matter of an Inquest into the death of. Sarah rose higgins on 16. March 2002 at the royal. At the time, the deceased was subject to an order made pursuant to the Mental Health and Related Services Act. As a result, she was a "person in care" within the meaning of s 12 of the

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"It was a sudden, desperate urge that will pass if you can look after them and prevent them from doing harm."

Joshua didn't tell hospital staff he was suffering in the same way when he sought help on September 2.

His mum said he knew mentioning suicidal thoughts would get him "locked up" in a room he had no desire to return to.

"He had been in the mental health units three time before; he did not want to go back," she said.

"It's a horrible place."

'He'd done everything in his power'

What Ms Skjonnemand did expect was recognition from hospital staff that he'd been in this position before.

"They failed to put an alert on his file and they failed to put him on a suicide prevention plan," she said.

"Josh waited four hours, received no compassion, was drug tested and then eventually told, 'If we haven't been able to help you until now, we won't be able to fix you tonight'."

"That was the moment that broke him."

In the days before his death, Ms Skjonnemand said Joshua was loving towards his family and had the "courage of a lion".

He went to work, visited his friends and wrote a note about his wish for the world.

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"Something triggered him again and he knew when he went into that meltdown that he had done everything in his power," she said.

"It had got to the point where everybody had done everything they could to help him except the health system which had put up a brick wall."

Demand for change

Ms Skjonnemand said she believed there had been five major failures of the state's mental health system.

She claims health workers showed a lack of compassion for people suffering with mental health issues, inaccurately documented her son's presentations to emergency and the Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS), were dismissive of suicidal ideation, lacked regard for relatives' insights into Joshua's mental state, and put pressure on her family to de-escalate his care prematurely.

Ms Skjonnemand said she hoped an inquest would change the way mental health patients were treated, shorten hospital waiting times and put in place systems whereby patients were supported by a case worker when they presented for help and after they left hospital.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said Health Minister Steven Miles could not comment on individual cases but confirmed he was looking into Joshua's story.

Wearied by her six-month fight for change, Ms Skjonnemand said she had learned to embrace the grey hairs and wrinkles that came with it.

"Now that my son is gone I have an obligation to speak for the people who are still there struggling to support their children.

"We need to honour him by not sweeping it under the rug."

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