Carer's story

My son’s entire life changed the day of his car accident. He was 18 when he became partially disabled, his hopes and dreams of a career left in the dust. 

My son spent many years in and out of various hospitals. He was admitted into Gladesville Hospital rehabilitation cottages when he was 20 years old and diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia. 

I do not think the hospital staff were very nice to him. My son hated it in there, he once ran away to his grandmother’s house. When he arrived at her place, after travelling for 11 hours the police were waiting to take him straight back to Gladesville where his case manager placed him in ward 20.

That ward was for the ‘really bad’ patients and you could hear the screams and cries of patients coming from there. When I questioned why they locked him up in that ward, they said “so we can teach him a lesson”. He was refused visitors and the only time I was allowed to visit my son was on a Saturday morning for 10 minutes. I tried so hard to have him released but they wouldn’t do it. His case manager would say that they couldn’t release him because “he hasn’t learnt his lesson yet”. What lesson was that? A lesson in cruelty?

The way he was treated was inhumane. On another occasion they would purposely bring me in for meetings so they could embarrass him in front of me and other doctors. I refused to side with them.

My son wasn’t sick before he was admitted into that place. He was there for rehab and when he left that place, he was never the same. His illness was exacerbated from the care he received. He could have recovered a lot better if he received the care, he should of have had and not so-called care he did receive.

On the closure of Gladesville, my son was transferred over to Ryde hospital where he was much happier. Today he is not well, but he manages, even though it is not a life like we know. He suffers from PTSD from the accident, the illness, and from the isolation he experienced in different hospitals. He was never able to get over the trauma he suffered, and although it wasn’t just from Gladesville Hospital it was the worst by far.

The problem with the system is that they either over medicate or lock people up. They do not talk to you and help you to understand that you are on a recovery journey. The idea of asylum is for people to seek asylum and safety but the treatment my son received was the opposite. I believe the way he was treated was criminal. He has never gotten over the treatment he received, and as a mother and someone who saw what he went through, neither have I.

One positive behind this is that the Gladesville Hospital is closed, and people are talking about it. There are now laws in place to stop this from ever happening again and being done to another human being.

Gladesville Hospital was a place where a lot of people suffered. The memorial should not only reflect the cemetery but the suffering that went on in the hospital and the trauma that people still live with today. It should be acknowledged that it is a part of our history that we should not be proud of.

I have hope for the future. 

I would like to see something calming placed there that shows the history and conveys to people that it wasn’t right. It is my hope one day that I can take my son back and show him that he was not alone in the trauma and abuse that he suffered. I would like to show him that he wasn’t alone, that other people suffered alongside him and most importantly, that what he experienced and suffered, was not his fault.