Age at interview: 87
Background: Alex lives alone in an inner metropolitan suburb, and is a retired medical specialist. He is widowed and has a new partner who lives in her own house. Alex has three adult children and is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Two of Alex's children have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. His son was diagnosed in when he was 20 years old and his daughter was diagnosed at the age of 34. Both of Alex's children have been admitted to hospital at different times. Alex has been involved in their care for over 30 years.
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More about Alex
Alex is 87 years old and a widower. His wife passed away six years ago, and he has three adult children. His two younger children have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, his son in 1980, when he was 20 years old and his daughter in 1998, aged 34. Over the years, Alex has cared for his son and daughter both at home and when they have lived out of home. They are currently aged 54 and 49 respectively, and live independently. Alex said he feels 'very lucky' to be with his new partner, who has supported him and also assisted in caring for his children.
Alex's two younger children have experienced hospitalisation at different times. They have been placed on Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), and he said both had been unhappy about this. Alex felt the lack of communication from practitioners while his children were being put on CTOs made it difficult for him to contribute to better outcomes for them.
Alex said medication is important in keeping his children well. He also described providing emotional support to his children. He said he speaks to his son several times a week, and described feeling as though he is acting as a 'psychotherapist' during these conversations. Alex also said his son and daughter have been 'very close' since childhood and have supported each other at various times. Alex thinks it is important to respect and encourage his children's independence, and has assisted them in finding appropriate housing. However, his desire to support their autonomy has become complicated at times when he is required to intervene to act in their 'interests'. Alex said when he has been particularly concerned about his children's wellbeing, he has communicated directly with their employers or mental health practitioners.
Alex described seeking information about his children's mental illness from support services, and said he still receives excellent help from them. He also sees a psychiatrist himself during difficult times, particularly when day-to-day interactions become upsetting.
Alex would like to see greater education about mental illness, particularly in schools and the workplace, to reduce stigma. He feels that better understanding of mental illness among the general population would be hugely beneficial in better integrating people with mental illness into society. Alex thinks that privacy laws can act 'very, very strongly' against people with mental illness, and that carers are 'severely disempowered' by them. He believes there should be transparent information for carers about the management of mental illness, particularly from psychiatrists and during the process of applying CTOs. He feels strongly that carers should be involved in decisions about treatment.
Alex said parents sometimes blame themselves for their children's mental illness, but for him it has been 'important' to realise that it is not his fault. He said being 'realistic' about his caring role with his children has helped, accepting that 'you can only help people as far as they want'.