Age at interview: 62
Background: Bronwyn is divorced and has two sons in their twenties. She lives with one of her sons in a regional town in Victoria. Bronwyn is retired but does some casual relief work. She identifies as Anglo-Australian.
Bronwyn has cared for her son, who is in his twenties, since he was diagnosed with schizophrenia by a psychologist when he was 23. He has spent some time in hospital. Bronwyn has been an advocate for her son at different times.
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More about Bronwyn
Reflecting on the past three years of caring for her son, Bronwyn feels grateful that he is alive and that she has been able to help him.
Bronwyn said that at the age of 17, her son started to 'lose friends' and became 'angry' and 'aggressive'. At the time, Bronwyn put these changes down to 'teenage hormones'. Three years ago, her son began sending 'strange' text messages to her and, later, disclosed that he was hearing voices. He was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia by a psychologist but subsequently received two other diagnoses from different mental health practitioners - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 'psychosis yet to be determined'. He was re-diagnosed with schizophrenia almost two years ago. Bronwyn said it has been difficult to get adequate care for her son and that she has been through some 'very scary' and 'lonely' times in the last three years.
Bronwyn described two major incidents with her son involving the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CAT) team and the police. The first time she said the CAT team were able to 'convince' her son to go to hospital voluntarily. He was later made an involuntary patient at Bronwyn's urging. The second time the police were called along with the CAT team. Bronwyn said her son went 'berserk' when they arrived, because he did not want to go back to hospital due to a violent incident that occurred with another patient during his first stay. He was 'shot' with rubber bullets and arrested.
At the time of the interview, Bronwyn was trying to get her son an appointment with his psychiatrist to have her son's medication adjusted because he 'took a dive' after an offer of employment was retracted. Bronwyn described supplementing her son's monthly antipsychotic injections with leftover tablets, which she felt was helping. She has noticed her son is able to work when taking medication and feels that working has a 'good effect' on him. In three years, Bronwyn said that her son has seen a psychiatrist 'maybe' three times. Her son's cousin who is a mental health practitioner, his case manager and a support worker have helped Bronwyn navigate the mental health system.
Bronwyn believes mental health practitioners should take time to 'listen' to carers and that carers should be given as 'much information' as possible about how to help their loved one. She said 'in an ideal world', people experiencing mental health problems should have regular visits to the psychiatrist about their medication and health, and that they need an advocate. Bronwyn feels this would help her son as he is 'not really aware of what he needs' although he has acknowledged that he needs her support.
Bronwyn said her son is back to being a 'quiet, funny young man'. She hopes that she will be able to see a 'better side of life' in the future and that her son will be able to live independently.