A Queensland teenager who took her own life had been left without proper care when she left an adolescent mental health centre that was later closed by the state government, her mother says.
Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker, 18, was one of three teenagers who took their own lives within eight months of the then Liberal National state government controversially closing Brisbane’s Barrett Adolescent Centre in 2014.
The Brisbane Coroners Court is investigating the immediate circumstances surrounding the deaths of Ms Wilkinson Whiticker, 17-year-old Talieha Nebauer and Will Fowell, 18, as well as the impact on them of the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre.
It was the only facility to provide long-term, in-patient treatment for young people with complex mental illnesses and its closure quickly became a politically and emotionally charged issue.
Ms Wilkinson Whiticker had been a long-term, voluntary patient at the centre, where necessary services were either provided on site or arranged by its staff.
Once patients left, they were transitioned into services that were provided in the community, a process the girl had begun about a year before the centre was shuttered.
Her mother, Justine Wilkinson, told reporters outside the inquest on Monday her daughter would have had a better chance with the right support and treatment.
“If she’d just had the right supports and the right sort of treatment from Queensland Health, and the right attitudes amongst clinicians … then she would have stood a much better chance,” Ms Wilkinson said.
“Without (the Barrett Centre), she had nothing.”
A commission of inquiry has since found that warnings from experts about the significant risks to patients, should the centre be shut without a replacement, were ignored.
Susan Byth, a GP who saw the teen in the months before her death, told the inquest on Monday that Ms Wilkinson Whiticker had appeared normal throughout their appointments.
The doctor said at one point the girl told her she had stopped taking the mood stabiliser lithium at the instruction of Princess Alexandra Hospital staff, who were also treating her.
Dr Blyth told the inquest she was under the impression doctors at the hospital were then taking the lead on monitoring her dosage and additional care needs.
Shine Lawyers solicitor Tiffany Marsh, who represents the mothers of the three teens, says they want answers from the inquests.
“These families have already been through so much already and were hoping to achieve … closure through the answers to their questions,” she said.
“It’s been an awful experience that they’ve had to go through.”
A facility to replace the Barrett Centre at the Prince Charles Hospital is not expected to open until 2020.
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