Mum says son died 16 hours after leaving hospital

ANGER at Queensland's healthcare system has stayed with Kim Brett for the eight years since her son committed suicide.

But the state government's plan to reduce suicide by 50% in the next decade, and the urging of federal government to have Medicare cover more mental healthcare could at least leave Ms Brett confident no other patients would fall through cracks in the system, as she believes happened to her son.

On October 7, 2008, 26-year-old Todd Maycock, who worked at an international bank, loved scuba diving and was due to be married in five months, took his own life.

This was despite ongoing attempts to get help at hospital.

A coronial investigation into Todd's death, completed on September 17, 2009, found that Todd presented at the Royal Brisbane Hospital emergency department on October 2 and was seen by a psychiatrist.

He returned again on October 6, just 16 hours before he died.

His mum Kim Brett claims during this visit he waited five hours to see a psychiatrist before being sent home after a five-minute consultation.

Todd Maycock, January 31 1982- October 7 2008.Photo: Contributed.
Todd Maycock, January 31 1982- October 7 2008.Photo: Contributed.

Medical records show he locked himself in the hospital bathroom and threatened self-harm during this visit.

While the investigation states he was classified a "medium suicide risk" when he presented this second time, by the time he left hospital each time he was deemed a "low suicide risk".

Ms Brett found this categorisation outrageous, and says more should have been done to monitor and care for her son.

The coronial investigation did not recommend a coronial inquest - which is a further investigation into the cause or circumstances around a death.

An inquest can also be requested if those involved believe it would be in the public interest.

However two requests for for these made by Ms Brett's solicitors were denied.

She also appealed to the state health minister in July 2015 for an inquest, but a letter in response stated this was a decision made by the state coroner, which was independent of government.

When the Royal Brisbane Hospital was contacted for comment, a spokesperson said it could not discuss the case in detail in order to protect the family.

But the spokesperson did confirm there had been a coronial investigation in 2009 and said an external clinical review was also carried out.

Senior psychiatrists also met with family members to explain the treatment and assessment that had been provided.

But now Ms Brett said her main objective is to help make changes to the healthcare system to stop others dying in such tragic circumstances.

And thankfully, the opportunity to make those changes are on the horizon.

"A lot of people feel anger after a suicide. I never felt anger at Todd, how could I? I felt angry at the system," Ms Brett said.

"You just don't want it to happen to anyone else."

Kim Brett's son died by suicide seven years ago and believes the system in place to help people suffering mental health issues needs to be upgraded.Photo: Emily Smith
Kim Brett's son died by suicide seven years ago and believes the system in place to help people suffering mental health issues needs to be upgraded.Photo: Emily Smith Emily Smith

The federal government will begin the process of reviewing mental health treatments covered under Medicare in the next few months.

Currently, patients can access only 10 allied mental health services each year under Medicare.

As Ms Brett pointed out, access to general Medicare services, like GP visits, have no caps.

The review of the mental health Medicare Benefits Schedule next year, could provide the chance to remove those caps.

Ms Brett and state health minister Cameron Dick said they would certainly urge the federal government to do so.

Earlier this year state government set out a target to reduce deaths by suicide by 50% in the next 10 years.

Mr Dick indicated the strategy behind this goal centred on improving hospital resources.

A program would be brought in to better train emergency department staff to respond to suicide, and $9.6m during the next three years would be spent improving suicide prevention programs.

While none of these measures would bring her son back, Ms Brett was determined to prevent another family losing a loved one by suicide.

GET HELP

If you need to talk phone:

 Lifeline: 13 11 14

 MensLine: 1300 789 978

 Beyondblue: 1300 224 636

 Headspace Mackay 4898 2200



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