WHEN the Barrett Adolescent Centre at Wacol closed its doors, 18-year-old Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker felt so hopeless that she took her own life.
Caitlin was a patient at the centre and is one of three teenagers who took their own lives after the centre closed. Talieha Nebauer, 17, and Will Fowell, 18, also took their lives.
On Wednesday the teen's families attended the first public hearing of an inquiry that will investigate the decisions leading up to the Barrett centre closure, the transitioning of patients to other facilities and adequacy of support, among other things.
Speaking outside court, Caitlin's mother Justine Wilkinson said her daughter felt hopeless when the Barrett centre closed.
"She just got so hopeless that there wasn't going to be sufficient help for her and that she would never get better that she took her life out of hopelessness and that is just such a sad, sad, sad thing," she said.
Ms Wilkinson said care for mental illness patients should be on par with treatment cancer and leukemia patients received.
"I mean, you don't send children who have tuberculosis or cancer or leukemia, you don't send them home to their parents, you keep them in hospital where they have specialist services…
"With our children … (they) are at risk of taking their lives. And that's what's happened with my daughter."
She wants widespread recognition about the importance of proper facilities to treat mental illness.
"Mental health always been treated as something really special and very different and really that's got to change. It's got to come on a par with things like somebody having cancer or leukemia and the services that are available there and the attitudes towards it."
Wednesday's public hearing in Brisbane was a chance for lawyers to get formal permission to represent people involved, including former health minister Lawrence Springborg, hospital and health services, the Queensland Government, doctors and nurses.
Commissioner Margaret Wilson gave an opening statement and said the inquiry would examine the factors that led to the centre's closure, which was announced on August 6, 2013.
She said the Barrett Adolescent Centre provided intensive mental health services to young people with severe and complex mental illness.
Further public hearings, when evidence will be heard, are expected to start in November and continue for about four weeks.
Commissioner Wilson is required to report to the Premier by January 14, 2016.
*People seeking support and information can contact Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 and MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
What the Commission of Inquiry will examine:
- The decision to close the Barrett Adolescent Centre and what led up to it
- Transition to alternative care arrangements for patients
- Adequacy of support and care for patients, families and staff during transition
- Whether an alternative to replace the centre was considered
- Any breaches of the Mental Health Act or other legislation
- APN NEWSDESK
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