Professor John Mendoza
Professor John Mendoza Lee Constable

Mental health expert calls for 'rage' after own nephew dies

A SUNSHINE COAST mental health expert who lost his own nephew to the mental illness has called for parents to show their rage over the biggest killer of kids aged 5 to 14 in Queensland.

Professor John Mendoza, who is nationally recognised for his work in suicide prevention, said twice as many people were dying each year by their own hand - 2500 - compared to road toll deaths in Australia.


Mr Mendoza's nephew Jeff was admitted to the Gold Coast University Hospital in November last year.

The ABC's 7.30 program reported that despite a history of multiple suicide attempts, depression, and post-traumatic stress syndrome from his time spent in the Navy more than a decade ago, Jeff Mendoza was discharged from hospital the next day.


He took his own life within 30 hours.

"I use the term 'treat 'em and street 'em' is the summary of it,'' Mr Mendoza said of the hospital system approach.

He said Jeff had been set loose with in a hospital gown with no wallet, no shoes and no access to his apartment.

"He sat in that state for four hours after just 24 hours earlier having a very clear plan to end his life.''

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Professor Mendoza said while the Queensland Police Service had been very good, the hospital treatment of his nephew was 'appalling'.

He said police were 'sick and tired' of taking people to care only to find out a few days or a few weeks later they had been released from hospital and killed themselves.

Gold Coast Health said it is conducting an internal review into the circumstances that led to Mr Mendoza's death.

Mr Mendoza agreed that if he, as someone who knew the system so well, could not save his nephew, how could others deal with it.

He said his nephew's death has sparked a new wildfire within him to get something done.

"On a weekly basis, I have people asking me 'I can't get care, where can I get care.''

The case was highlighted during discussions about a leaked report which has called for an overhaul of the way Australia deals with mental illness.

About $1 billion a year goes into hospital services.

Mr Mendoza and others believes more funding needs to be directed into community based care.

The Sunshine Coast professor quit his position as chief adviser on mental health to the Rudd government in 2010 over its inaction.

At the time, Tony Abbott promised major reform.

But Mr Mendoza said Australia appeared to be going nowhere despite reports calling for reforms dating back until the 1980s.

"We have a broken mental health system and we have to do a whole lot better,'' he said.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the government was committed to working with mental health experts and other levels of government over the next 12 months to deliver better outcomes for the sector and Australians long-term.

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