Book review: ‘No Place to Die’—(merinews.com)

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merinews.com

Kumar Yogesh Singh

29 April, 2009

SUICIDE, BROUGHT about by a bullying psychiatrist and anti-depressants should never happen. Unfortunately it did. Jann McPherson tells of the shortcomings of the mental health system in her newly released book. ‘No Place to Die’ is a penetrating, honest and revealing account of psychiatry written by mother Jann McPherson of her daughter Gretel’s tragic and unnecessary death. Jann refuses to let her daughter’s death be swept under the carpet and she wants to hold accountable those who were responsible, not just for the sake of Gretel but for others too, who died under the same system.

Gretel was 24 years of age, beautiful, intelligent and talented, with everything to live for. She died hanging, after voluntary admission to a Perth psychiatric hospital, from a bed curtain rail after a journey of tragic decline.

Jann shows institutional secrecy, the misguided judgment of those in the ‘know’ and utter desperation as she and Gretel undertake a rocky path of unprofessional treatment, debilitating anti-depression drugs and cold officialdom. Gretel’s writings of her thoughts of the mental health system, found after her death, are revealed and her revealing poetry brings tears to one’s eyes. There are heartbreaking stories of others – parents and spouses, all seeking justice and some light as to why.

The West Australian government at the time did very little except pass the buck and the WA Medical Board did nothing, even after many complaints against a particular psychiatrist were lodged. Why was this? Was it because he was employed in a public hospital and taught at a leading university and his humiliating and cruel tactics, if revealed publicly, would have caused embarrassment to the government and the mental health system?

Graylands, the psychiatric hospital, is answerable for neglect and lack of care. After all, Gretel hung for over fifty minutes when she was on a 30-minute observation. Where were the staff? Where were they when a couple of other patients lay dead on the ground for days, close to the main building? Gretel’s post mortem report was headed, ‘Sex-male and Age-44’; wrong on both counts. What else was incorrect when the most basic things were 100 per cent incorrect?

‘No Place to Die’ is a must-read; it reveals the pitfalls obtaining in the mental health system, with its slippery  fingers of medication, its life-sucking effects and just how very easy it is to be  pulled into a black abyss