Melbourne mum Mary Pershall’s daughter failed to get the help she needed for her severe mental illness until she was in jail for killing her housemate.
Daughter Anna is serving a 17-year jail sentence for fatally attacking the man she lived with in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
The mum always feared she would get a call saying her daughter was dead, but in November 2015 received from police startling news.
“We got a call that said she’d killed someone else,” Ms Pershall told the Royal Commission into Mental Health on Friday.
Despite trying to get her daughter into long-term psychiatric care, Ms Perhall was rejected because Anna was using a range of drugs.
“She was turned away from mental institutions because she used drugs, and she was turned away from drug rehabilitation because she was mentally ill,” Ms Pershall said.
Ms Pershall and her family ultimately realised her daughter may have been suffering from auditory and visual hallucinations since she was a child.
It wasn’t until Anna was in her mid-20s that her behaviour spiralled out of control and she would go missing for weeks at a time.
She became violent and lunged at her father with a knife after he told her to go to bed on one occasion, Ms Pershall said.
“We had some hope that day … police said they would take Anna to the … hospital and she would get some real help. But at the end of the day we were just told to take her home,” she explained through tears.
Speaking outside, Anna’s older sister Katie Horneshaw said the quality of care provided in prison had been exceptional.
It was in prison where Anna was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality traits.
“The question is, why did Anna have to go to prison to get that type of care?” Ms Horneshaw asked.
“That’s exactly the type of care we wanted for her on the outside – round the clock holistic care.”
Anna’s family hopes more crisis accommodation and early intervention programs will be created in Victoria to support those suffering mental health issues.
Her mother said they didn’t know how to care for someone with a severe mental illness and struggled with the limited options available.
“I came to realisation that all I could do was love her,” Ms Pershall said.