A WARRNAMBOOL resident believes the state's mental health system failed his ill son.
Marco Di Pietrantonio's 30-year-old son Dominic died on December 9, 2015.
He passed away in his sleep and the cause of death was ruled as natural causes, with no evidence of a heart attack or brain aneurysm.
Mr Di Pietrantonio said his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years prior to his death and had been struggling.
He accompanied his son to the doctor, who said Dominic needed a review of his medication, but he was unable to get an appointment with a psychiatrist until mid January.
Sadly, he died before he was able to attend that appointment.
"I know he would still be here if he got the help he needed," he said.
Mr Di Pietrantonio said there was no inquest conducted because he didn't know it was up to him to ask for one.
"They couldn't find what killed him," he said.
"His heart was OK, his brain was OK, there was no bleeding. There was no evidence of anything other than the therapeutic medication he was taking.
"I believe he was given the right medication, but it was too strong."
Mr Di Pietrantonio has welcomed news there will be a Royal Commission into Victoria's mental health system.
"Losing a kid is one thing but losing a kid like that is a real kick in the guts," he said.
"Something needs to change."
Mr Di Pietrantonio believes there are issues with the mental health system right across Australia.
He was diagnosed with bipolar in 1991 when he was living in Brisbane.
When his wife left him and took his two sons, he hit rock bottom,
He was eventually hospitalised after a number of people expressed concerns for his well-being.
"I was running around telling people 'I'm god, I'm going to change the world and this and that'."
Mr Di Pietrantonio said he hopes things have changed at mental facilities in Queensland since then because he was able to escape on a number of occasions.
When a number of police officers arrived at his house to take him to hospital, he surprised himself by putting a particular item of clothing in his suitcase.
"I don't know why but I put my suit and my shoes in my suitcase," Mr Di Pietrantonio said.
"When I was at the hospital there was this young lady who had 8 to 10 people visiting her. I had an idea to put on my suit and when they'll leave I'll huddle in with them and see if I can sneak out. I walked out with them and a lady said to me 'aren't you a patient here?' I turned and said 'do I look sick to you? Do you mind?' So she opened the door."
Mr Di Pietrantonio said he was able to escape on a number of other occasions, returning to the facility after a few hours.
"When I came back I hit the buzzer on the door and a male nurse came out and was saying 'how did you get out?'"
Mr Di Pietrantonio said he manages his bipolar now, but his brother is having his own issues accessing help through the mental health system in Queensland.
He believes urgent action is required to ensure people with mental health issues get the help they need.
The Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System will hold a series of consultations across the state, giving people with mental illness and their carers the chance to have their voices heard.
Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said one in five Victorians would experience mental health this year and too many would lose their lives to suicide.
"We need a new approach to mental health and a Royal Commission will help deliver a new system," he said.
"We need to hear from all the experts in the system, especially people with mental health issues and their carers."
Victoria now has the dubious honour of spending the least per person on mental health in the country.
Each year there are about 20,000 suicide attempts and in 2016, for example, 624 deaths by suicide.
Former Australian of the year and mental health advocate Professor Patrick McGorry said resources once dedicated to mental health had been diverted to strained emergency departments.
"In the past decade, community mental health has been completely overwhelmed so there is virtually nothing between GP and emergency," Professor McGorry said.
Simon Judkins, the president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said there had been an increasing number of Victorian patients left waiting for 24 hours in emergency departments for mental health care.
"It's the worst place for a mental health patient, who may be stressed, anxious or suicidal," Mr Judkins said.
"Spending a day in emergency is not a therapeutic environment."
Mental Health Victoria, the peak body for the state's mental health services, has laid out the economic case for investing in mental health.
It estimates at least $543 million more is needed to fix mental health by 2022 to bring Victoria in line with the average national spend.
It also says spending that amount will mean health and productivity savings of $1.1 billion in that time.
It estimates Victoria needs:
- $200 million in funding for community mental health
- $251 million to improve care for young people
- $65 million for 200 more acute beds
- $27 million to increase programs for those hospitalised for self harm
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.
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