Tucabia woman Denise Reardon lost her son Allan Reardon to suicide six years ago, and said she didn’t believe the mental health services in the Clarence Valley were adequate. Denise holds a photo of her grandson Travis with her son Allan.
Tucabia woman Denise Reardon lost her son Allan Reardon to suicide six years ago, and said she didn’t believe the mental health services in the Clarence Valley were adequate. Denise holds a photo of her grandson Travis with her son Allan. Jojo Newby

'Get mental health facility'

HAPPILY married and a father to three children, Allan Reardon was 42 when he hung himself in the back shed of his Brisbane home in June, 2005.

Allan, who grew up in Swan Creek and attended South Grafton High School, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia aged 31.

He was a heavy cannabis smoker in his teens - a pastime his mother Denise Reardon tolerated at the time because "at least he wasn't out getting drunk", but a habit she now wishes she had clamped down on.

"I didn't know then what I know now - that it's one of the worst things for psychosis," she said.

Mrs Reardon, who now lives in Tucabia, told her story to The Examiner in response to an article which quoted a Northern NSW Local Health District nurse saying the Clarence Valley did not have the "critical mass" of population to support an overnight mental health facility.

"That article made my blood boil; that bloke obviously has never had someone needing help mentally sitting in an emergency room," she said.

Mrs Reardon explained the situation leading to her son's death.

"He was having physical side-effects from his medication and his GP was looking to make a swap," she said.

"He was booked into the Barrett Centre at Wolston Park Mental Hospital for the transition between medications and was waiting on a bed to come up.

"A bed came up but the hospital rang and told him on the Wednesday that he was due in that the bed was no longer available.

By the following Wednesday Allan had committed suicide after leaving a note for his wife Michelle not to look in the back shed.

Painfully, the Barrett Centre called the family the day after Allan died saying a bed was now available.

"As a mum I just don't want any other parent to go through the pain of losing someone that way.

"It really does worry me. I've lost three of my family (Allan, a nephew Gary Hamilton and his son Luke).

"I'm not saying it wouldn't have happened down the track; he may have been destined to suicide.

"Allan thought he was an evil person; he'd had the noose over his neck three times before, but the thought of the children always brought him back."

Mrs Reardon said her son would sometimes hallucinate a grim-reaper-type character and once said "it's like a big cloud came over the hill and went in me".

"It was like being on one side of a pane of glass and no matter how hard he tried he could not get through," she said.

"He was very quiet about his illness. From the age of about 32 to 42 he was in his bedroom a lot sleeping - he didn't participate much in family things; it was like a different Allan.

Mrs Reardon said she felt as though she had lost the son she knew as his illness got worse.

"You have to learn to love the new person," she said.

Despite his illness, Mrs Reardon said he was a truly wonderful husband and father who was treasured by his family.

Mrs Reardon said mentally ill patients could be a danger to family members and the public if untreated, which was why the valley needed it's own lock-up facility staffed by properly trained mental health workers.

"They need somewhere they can be kept in a dignified manner," she said.

She said the Mental Health Access Line (listed above) had been an invaluable number for emergency mental health care for another family member in the past.

Mental health contacts

Mental Health Access Line (24 hours) - 1300 369 968 - can refer you to the local Community Mental Health Team.

beyondblue - 1300 22 4636 - can provide help and advice.

Lifeline - 13 11 14 - is available 24/7 for suicide counselling.

Kid's Helpline - 1800 551 800. Men's Line Australia - 1300 78 9978.

Alcohol and other Drug Info - 1800 422 599.

Alcoholics Anonymous - 6649 4721.

Community Health - Grafton 6640 2402, Maclean 6640 0123.

Bulgarr Ngaru Aboriginal Medical Services - 6643 2199.

CHESS Employment (PHaMs, SMART Recovery, Bike Recycling) - 6644 3222.

Cranes (Reach Program and Community Support) - Grafton 6642 7257, Maclean 6645 5080.

People should discuss their mental health with their GP.

Painfully, the Barrett Centre called the family the day after Allan died saying a bed was now available.



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