Van Gogh spent his life fighting to keep his sanity. His paintings and letters to his brother Theo give us an insight into his lifelong suffering.
But in Adelaide this week, an inquest recounted the last hours of a desperate father’s life as his sanity slipped away from him. The inquest heard a recording of David Wyatt’s call to Mental Health Triage Services and the operator advising him to “take a warm shower, a warm drink, and relax”. A few hours after the call Mr Wyatt stabbed his partner and severed his 15 day-old daughter’s ear before killing himself and his two-year old son Jakob in March 2009.
One of the things Mr Wyatt told the health services’ operator was that he had just smoked cannabis and believed he was going to die.
State agencies obviously failed Mr Wyatt, who was a clinically diagnosed schizophrenic, after he was released into the community in 2006 on a four-year supervised release licence after being found not guilty of robbing a woman due to mental incompetence.
“Everybody involved in the matter knew Mr Wyatt was taking drugs. He presented to emergency departments in psychotic rages and nothing was done about it,” counsel assisting said. It is difficult to understand the lack of action by various agencies especially in light of the fact that children were involved. What came out of this inquest, was that none of the agencies consulted with each other and there was no risk assessment of the children’s safety. The fact that Mr Wyatt suffered hallucinations, heard voices, and believed he was receiving messages from the Television set, should have set off alarm bells and alerted the services to the danger the children were in, not to mention the children’s mother.
This man repeatedly breached his supervised licence, which led to stints in the James Nash House mental facility, but his licence was never revoked. Severely mentally ill people are abandoned within the community, posing a danger to themselves and others. Surely Mr Wyatt should have been institutionalised; the answer to this question is always that there aren’t enough beds available. Apparently this is the reason his licence was not revoked. It’s like playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.
The truth of the matter is that mental health issues in Australia have been neglected for too long.