‘No justice’ from Barrett Centre inquest findings


THE mother of one of three teenagers who took their own lives after the closure of a crucial mental health facility for young adults says she is devastated by a coroner's inquest findings.

Coroner John Lock oversaw the inquest into the deaths of Talieha Nebauer, William Fowell and Caitlin Whiticker, all aged 18, who took their lives after the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre in 2014.

He today delivered his findings, saying the evidence indicated the suicides were not as a direct result of the facility's closure and that all three had faced other significant external factors that may have contributed to their mental state at the time of their deaths.

"In all three cases the decision to end their own lives came at a point in time when specific events occurred, which exposed them to specific personality vulnerabilities that had been a pervasive feature for each of them over many years," Mr Lock wrote in his findings.

The coroner also declined to offer any recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future, saying there had already been "considerable work and investment in suicide prevention and mental health services generally that is already underway and planned for the future, including specific to adolescents and young people".

"…I do not consider there are any additional matters about which recommendations might usefully be made by the court," he said.

Justine Wilkinson, mother of suicide victim Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker, outside the Brisbane Coroners Court. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Justine Wilkinson, mother of suicide victim Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker, outside the Brisbane Coroners Court. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

Outside court Caitlin's mother Justine Wilkinson said she was upset by the findings.

"We are really disappointed in the findings of the coroner," she said.

"The legal system obviously does not equal a justice system and so far we haven't had any justice."

She said the facility's closure had a profound impact on the mental health of her daughter.

"The Barrett Centre was an absolute lifeline for them - it gave them hope and it gave them recovery," she said.

"Young people could go back to the Barrett Centre and have that backstop and that is what prevented then after they left from committing suicide from getting worse.

"We lost three kids out of this when they didn't need to die."

The Centre was a 15-bed inpatient service that provided extended treatment and rehabilitation programs for adolescents across Queensland presenting with complex mental health diagnoses including eating disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, severe self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

The centre also offered a day program service involving a school and structured group activities.

It was aimed at assisting the transition of adolescents to alternative services following inpatient admission or generally in terms of achieving developments in areas such as independent living and social skills.

However the centre was abruptly shut in 2014.

A new mental-health facility for adolescents is currently under construction and is due to open at the Prince Charles Hospital next year.

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