Thomas Adams with his son Kayleb.
Thomas Adams with his son Kayleb. Contributed

Tragedy of depression

THOMAS Adams was what his father Malcolm described as a happy-go-lucky kid and young adult.

He was into regular childhood pursuits - football, BMX and skateboard riding with his mates and the navy cadets.

He graduated to motorcycles after he got his licence and, nine months ago, became a father for the first time.

"He doted on Kayleb," Malcolm said.

But on December 6 last year 25-year-old Thomas took his own life.

According to Malcolm and his sister Tamarra he had fallen into a downward spiral to depression, one that escalated out of concern for his job and financial stability.

That slide began about two years ago when family noticed he started to get increasingly moody.

"He got told he couldn't get into the navy because of injuries he'd received from a bike accident seven or eight years ago," Tamarra said.

His family tried to support him, encouraging him to seek professional help.

"He thought he could handle it himself," Tamarra said.

And after the birth of Kayleb, they believed he had turned around. His mood had improved because he loved his son so much.

But the depression returned and about November 21 last year he asked his father to get the help he needed.

Malcolm immediately took him to Grafton Base Hospital.

Despite his call for help Thomas still fought treatment.

As Malcolm spoke to the receptionist, Thomas "did a runner".

"I found him on the street walking in front of traffic," Malcolm said.

His father got him back, but he tried to leave a second time.

After his third attempt at leaving the hospital, police were called and Thomas was handcuffed to the bed.

After being assessed, he was transferred to the Richmond Clinic in Lismore where he stayed overnight.

Malcolm said he got a call from Thomas the next morning saying he had been released, without further assessment.

Malcolm suggested he go to his cousin's home near the hospital until he could come and pick him up.

"There was no follow-up (from mental health teams) at all," Malcolm said.

"I've spoken to a social worker and they can't understand why there was no follow-up."

For a time Thomas's demeanour appeared to improve.

According to Tamarra, most of the time he seemed happy.

He was seeing a counsellor willingly, having barbecues and wanting to spend time with family.

On December 4 his mother, Jennifer Adams, was visiting and became very concerned about his state of mind.

Because she had to go to work, she called Malcolm to come and spend time with him.

By the time Malcolm, who was out of town visiting friends, arrived about 15 minutes later, he found Thomas unconscious.

He managed to revive Thomas but he received severe brain damage and together, his family made the difficult decision to turn off his life support two days later.

"We miss him so much," Malcolm said.

"We live with this day by day, but nothing will bring him back."

Tamarra said she still cried herself to sleep.

"The whole family has been let down, but the person most let down is Kayleb, who doesn't have a father."

Malcolm said he hoped publicising his son's death would bring awareness to depression and the need for better understanding and treatment.

"Mental health is becoming a bigger and bigger issue.

"Depression is out there and we need more facilities to help people through it."

The Department of Health said it was unable to comment on individual cases.

A spokesman for the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) said the Grafton community had access to specialist mental health beds in Coffs Harbour and Lismore.

"Decisions to admit from Grafton to these units are based on clinical need and are consistent with the requirements of the Mental Health Act," a spokesman said.

"There are also instances when people experiencing difficulties with their mental health are admitted under their local doctor to the Grafton Base Hospital where this is assessed as appropriate. There are also a range of Community Mental Health Services provided in Grafton.

"When the NNSW LHD clinical services plan is developed it will consider whether additional mental health services should be developed in Grafton. The NNSW LHD clinical services plan will be developed during 2012."


Help Available

People experiencing depression or people concerned about the mental health of others are encouraged to seek help.

Lifeline offers a phone counselling service on 131114.

Sane Australia has also produced a range of material:

These are fact sheets available as booklets for people with a mental illness, the public, or the mental health sector.

There is also the hardcopy SANE Guide to Staying Alive