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A sad case - Troubled dad waited for a bed ... then hanged himself

Frank Walker
August 12, 2007
Justin Berkhout with his daughter Lucy on Christmas Day in 2005. Justin Berkhout with his daughter Lucy on Christmas Day in 2005.

THE parents of a hospital patient who hanged himself while on suicide watch have themselves been battling to get health support following their son's death.

Justin Berkhout, 29, was found hanging from a post over his bed at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital last month. He had attended hospital following an overdose on prescription tablets. His bed had been covered by a drawn curtain and his parents believe he had been left alone for about half an hour.
Justin's angry father, Adrian Berkhout said
It should never have happened. My wife has been suffering terribly since his death. She tried to ring a helpline last night and had to ring three times as it was always engaged. Before Justin committed suicide I tried to ring Mental Health Access Line as I wanted advice and I had to hold for three minutes. If you have a major crisis and want to talk to somebody you just get shoved on to bloody hold.
Greater Southern Area Health Service has ordered a full investigation and the matter has been referred to the State Coroner.

The tragic incident came as NSW Premier Morris Iemma vowed improving mental health would be the hallmark of his government.
Last week NSW Premier Morris Iemma said
No one wanted to talk about mental health for years, but we are showing that by taking action early on you can save people's lives.
Opposition mental health spokesman Greg Aplin said the death of Justin Berkhout demonstrated there was a clear lack of resources for mental health patients.
Adrian Berkhout who's son had seen mental health workers at the hospital a few weeks prior to his death. said
They knew his mental condition. My son had been battling depression for more than a decade, but he had trouble getting psychiatric help.

Justin attended the hospital last month, Justin had been promised a bed in the hospital's psychiatric unit, but the wait went through the night and well into the next day.
Mr Berkhout and his wife, Yvonne, from Yass, spent most of the night and next morning at their son's bedside, but left to get lunch.
Adrian said
We were called back and they were doing CPR but was in a coma. He was on life support for five days but tests found he had extensive brain damage. It was the most terrible decision we have ever had to make but there was no hope and we decided to turn off life support. They didn't take care. They knew he was a suicide risk.

Justin told Yvonne before we left for lunch that he could hang himself on the post above the bed. She told one of the nurses what he had said and she [the nurse] said they would take care of it.
Justin Berkhout was a cameraman at WIN TV, and leaves behind two-year-old daughter Lucy, who lives with her mother in Canada.

Source: The Sun-Herald


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