John McGrath never wants a parent to feel the incredible sense of helplessness he did when he was delivered a grim prognosis from his late son's doctor.
That's why he is relieved the state's mental health system looks set to be overhauled.
In its interim report, the Royal Commission into Victoria's mental health system has recommended expanding the HOPE program to a number of regional areas, including Warrnambool.
The program is designed to help people after they are discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt or suicidal ideations.
This and other recommendations would be a step in the right direction, according to Mr McGrath.
His son Shane took his own life in 1993 after a long battle with mental health issues.
Mr McGrath pushed for medical professionals to keep him in hospital, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
"He needed care at that time and they let him out," the former Warrnambool man said.
"I visited him the night before and I knew he was unfit to be out."
Mr McGrath said doctors had told him and his first wife they had grave fears for their son.
He often thinks of driving down the tree-lined driveway at Brierly Institution after being delivered news no parent ever wants to hear by the chief psychiatrist.
"What he told us about our son made it just the darkest night or time anyone could ever experience," Mr McGrath said.
"The hope that he gave us that night was virtually nil."
After his son's death, Mr McGrath made it his life's mission to make changes to the mental health system.
He was the first chairman of Mental Health Australia and a founding director and deputy chairman of Beyond Blue.
Mr McGrath was asked to be part of the Royal Commission into Victoria's mental health system, but declined due to ill health.
However, he is pleased with the recommendations which have come out of the commission's interim report.
One of these is an additional 170 youth and acute beds to help respond to urgent demand.
"We're always after more beds," Mr McGrath said.
"Whether it's enough or not is debatable.
"Some of the really sad, tragic stories we're still hearing are due to lack of bed availability. It's a step in the right direction for sure."
Mr McGrath said one thing he believed needed substantial funding was support for family and friends who cared for people suffering from mental health issues after they were released from care.
"When these people are released from professional care it's their family and friends that care for them," he said. "We need to make sure they are adequately resourced and supported."
Mr McGrath said he believed the royal commission panel was doing a great job and the mental health system had improved since his son's death.
"I'm pleased that we've come a long way but my goodness we have a long way to go," he said.
Funding outreach and clinical supports for people who have attempted suicide is another recommendation in the interim report, along with providing scholarships to people looking to enter the mental health industry to boost the workforce.
South West Healthcare chief Craig Fraser welcomed the interim report, noting the commission had scheduled further public hearings for 2020.
"South West Healthcare is committed to improving the mental health outcomes of all people in south-west Victoria and to overcoming many of the issues we face, particularly in a rural context, which we and others have highlighted in our submissions," Mr Fraser said.
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