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ON THE EDGE
<p>Courtesy Rebecca Ireland</p>

Courtesy Rebecca Ireland

The Boy Who Was Too Hard To Treat

How a young life was lost in the messy gaps that stretch between drug abuse, mental health and treatment.


When Rebecca Ireland was called to the Lismore morgue to identify her firstborn son, she found her handsome and broken 19-year-old lying cold. He had her long feline eyes, her high cheekbones, her rich dark hair, but he also had bruises tracking the veins of his body.

“I felt like I lost my son slowly for years, I grieved [for] him all the time,” she says.

Rebecca saw her son as having two identities. There was the little boy and there was the drug scammer. By the time of his death, Rain had been homeless and uncontrollable for almost four years. His volatile character and penchant for extreme drug use had created a monster so violent and terrifying that just before his 16th birthday, Rebecca had been forced to kick him out of her own home, where she lived with Rain’s younger brother.

“He was spiralling, just deteriorating and deteriorating, I felt like he was going to die any day,” she recalls.

Rain's Fall: Addiction Meets Mental Health

By the age of 18, Rain had advanced to such a stage of drug-dependence that his mind had collapsed into a lingering psychosis. Yet each time he was forced to see a medical officer, he would still get it together enough to adamantly refuse treatment.

As a young boy, Rain had had a fear of doctors, which evolved into an intense suspicion of anyone in the medical sector, and then a disregard for all authority. He grew wild on the street and became virtually untouchable — inaccessible to his mother, to the trail of doctors and counsellors whom she bribed him to see, resistant to advice given to him by youth workers in the nearby town of Byron Bay. Rebecca says Rain was cunning, he knew the correct answers to give during mental examinations and he managed to trick medical officer after medical officer into believing that he was perfectly well.

As a 16-year-old no longer living at home, Rain existed in a legal limbo. He was free to live independently from his parents, but if found to be at risk of serious harm, he was prevented (as a 16- to 18-year-old) by The Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act from being forced into the care of community services. Furthermore, Rain signed privacy documents that prevented doctors and counsellors from divulging information to his mother; the current approach taken by New South Wales health services prioritises maintaining the trust of the patient. Whether or not it was his direct intention, Rain programmed the system in such a way that during the subsequent three years it was virtually impossible for health services and his family to help him or even keep track of him.

“Everyone gave up on him,” Rebecca says.

At the front of the desk of Dr Harry Freeman, the last psychiatrist to see him, Rain at 19 years of age said he had no intention of giving up drugs. He didn’t want treatment.

And that was his right.

“He didn’t want to get better, wanted to self-destruct. But there was a little boy in there who was screaming out.”

Under current Australian law, people over 18 years of age are free to refuse treatment, provided they have the capacity to make an informed decision. Drug habits are not directly considered. Yet according to behavioural neurology professor Andrew Lawrence of The Florey Institute, drug dependence is, at its core, the behavior of a somewhat dysfunctional brain: a brain that is incapable of making informed decisions. Many of the reasons people give for refusing help are the very reasons that show they are in need of help.

“Most people wouldn't continue doing something if there were adverse consequences to it, but part of the reason that [drug addicts] do continue to [use drugs] it is that their ability to make a decision not to do it, has become impaired.” says Professor Lawrence.

Bernard Balleine is a professor at the Brain & Mind Research Institute at Sydney University.

“I would say that they'd be making decisions in a system that isn't functioning,” he says of people with a drug dependency.

“You can call them decisions in a kind of abstract way, but they're not decisions that the person’s making in a reflective sense, they're decisions that are in fact reflexive.”

Involuntary treatment is very difficult to instate. Since the days of institutionalising mentally ill patients, there has been a groundswell in support of patient rights. Currently, the New South Wales system is designed in a way that prioritises the rights of the patient. In order to detain a patient, medical officers must prove that they are ‘mentally disordered’ and a danger to themselves, or a danger to the wider public.

A patient cannot be held in hospital against their will unless two – and sometimes three – authorised medical offers agree that the person is mentally ill or mentally disordered and thus in need of assessment by a psychiatrist. This process of involuntary admission is commonly known as ‘scheduling’.

<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail

“[But] If somebody's under the influence of drugs it’s very difficult to diagnose a mental illness – because you have to wait for the drug effects to leave,” explains James Pitts, CEO of the Australian branch of Odyssey House, one of the country’s largest drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation services. “Drug effects,” he says, can last for, “sometimes two to three months.”

Pitts was a professional basketball player for the Minnesota Pipers in the United States, but when an early injury forced him to leave the game as a young man, he turned to drugs and drug dealing. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, but the judge saw his potential and suspended his sentence on the condition that he attend the Detroit branch of Odyssey House rehabilitation centre. Soon after that, he was sent to Melbourne to set up the program there. After 30 years working in the field in Australia, Pitts has become a leading figure in drug rehabilitation.

“It’s virtually impossible to get somebody scheduled unless they’re floridly psychotic,” he says.

“But being scheduled is a serious deprivation of liberty. If somebody's going to get scheduled, then you have to have very good reason, and I think that that's certainly a good thing.”

If a doctor finds that a patient is mentally ill, a mental-health inquiry must be referred to the Mental Health Review Tribunal. If the Tribunal finds them to be mentally ill, they can either be discharged, given an order to submit to community treatment for 12 months, or detained in hospital for a maximum of three months. If a doctor finds a patient to be ‘mentally disordered’ they can be held for up to three days.

But the process of classifying a patient as mentally ill or mentally disordered has many grey areas, and if a patient is resistant to treatment and is able to put a case as to why they do not need to be treated, as Rain Ireland did on several occasions, doctors will err on the side of caution; rather than lock them in a ward, they will refer them to a voluntary rehabilitation program.

“He’d be with other crazy people, people with guns, and he was still a child. They were older, scamming, mentally unwell people and they were his predators. He got beaten up, abused. He was stuck in a vicious cycle.”

Dr Katherine Mills, program director of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) centre of research excellence in mental health and substance use at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, is a specialist in the co-occurrence of substance abuse and mental health disorders.

“The system is set up in a way that only if you are very, very acutely ill will you get easy access to treatment, and by then it’s a bit late,” Mills says.

At the age of 16, young people in NSW are free to live independently from their parents. While living on the street at 16, Rain had many of the liberties of a functioning member of society, yet he was doing irreversible damage to his adolescent brain and hijacking his ability to make decisions. “He was ingesting anything and everything in copious amounts, with no capacity to understand the ramifications of that and the damage that [he was] causing,” Rebecca says.

“Rain would say, ‘I’m living 10,000 of your lifetimes every day, and you’re just watching from the sidelines’,” she recalls.

During his years of homelessness, Rain hung out with a revolving collection of what his mother calls “undesirables”.

“He’d be with other crazy people, people with guns, and he was still a child. They were older, scamming, mentally unwell people and they were his predators. He got beaten up, abused. He was stuck in a vicious cycle,” she says.

IT WAS JUST AFTER DARK on the night of the 4th of December, 2012 that Rain was hitchhiking back and forth along the flat grey ribbon of the Pacific highway that follows the east coast of Australia. Under a drug-spun veil of paranoia and confusion, and in the belief that he was being hunted (as drivers who picked him up have said), Rain flagged down passing cars. He would travel a little way in each one, before getting spooked and leaping out and running across the white lines to hail another vehicle heading back in the other direction. People later reported that he had been hopping about in the middle of the lane, as if fighting his own shadow.

At 8pm that night, Rain tried to call his mother from a stolen phone, but her phone was dead. Forty minutes later, he came into contact with the vehicle of an unsuspecting stranger, a 32-year-old woman behind the wheel of a blue Volkswagen Transporter. She saw Rain’s figure in the blackness ahead of her with only moments to spare. Her car collided with his body, killing him almost instantly.

It is said that the people who sat in the cars that banked up behind the accident heard the driver wailing.

When Rebecca saw the detectives who came to her work the next morning, to tell her what had happened, she says her first thought was, ‘Who has Rain killed?’.

The bitumen where Rain’s body had lain was marked out with the forensic team’s chrome-yellow paint. Pummelled by heavy subtropical rain, the paint took four months to wash out of the tiny fissures in the road. The slow-motion decline of Rain Ireland himself was to stain the community for much longer.

<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail

A family friend, Guy Kachel, stands by the highway in the place that Rain was killed.

For Rebecca, for the youth workers who had got to know him over the years, for the local cops, the school teachers, emergency health workers, psychiatrists and counsellors, Rain Ireland was their failure. Each knew pieces of his story, no-one knew it all. Each had tried to work within a system that lacked architecture, and watched in shock as he went tearing through every flimsy safety net that was set. The question on the lips of the Byron Bay community in which he grew up was unanimous: How did it get this bad?

A frightening statistic suggests that untreated addictions derail the lives of many people in Australia: that is, according to Corrective Services NSW, three-quarters of prisoners entering custody in that state have reported a history of alcohol and/or other drug abuse, and almost 70 per cent of offenders attribute at least one of their crimes to illicit drugs or alcohol.

OUT THE BACK of the Bangalow Hotel, in the town of the same name, just inland from Byron Bay, is an abandoned railway track. Plants grow up through the wooden skeleton of the derelict railway house and vines and graffiti cover the walls. On the floor are a few telltale signs of past residents: the dead ends of hand-rolled cigarettes, a plastic bottle with a hole burned in the side, empty chip packets and scrunched-up food packages. In the centre of one room, are the backrest and seat of a dismembered faux-leather armchair, laid flat to make a bed.

Of the campsites and abandoned sheds that Rain squatted in across the Byron Bay area, this was one of his more sheltered hideouts. When he was on the move, it was a place to keep his stash.

<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail

The abandoned railway track, one of Rain's more sheltered hideouts, where he often slept and kept his stash.

“It’s very hard to convey how disturbed and upsetting it was to be around him,” says Rebecca.

“I couldn’t take him. In the house we had holes all over the walls and I was ringing the youth centre for advice all the time,” Rebecca says, sitting in one of several tiny fibro cottages that face the arc of a wide brown creek, a rental home that she moved to in order to escape his spontaneous visits.

‘You're just a white maggot feeding off my black carcass,’ Rebecca recalls him saying to her one night.

After she evicted him, Rain continued to visit the family home, often homeless and hungry. Rebecca lived with the implacable fear that she would one day open her front door to find his corpse in the living room, cold from an overdose.

Rain’s drug habit developed to mar nearly every aspect of his life. He relied on government welfare to partially fund his growing dependence and won the rest by scamming on the street. “He stepped right into that culture. He wanted to take it really far. He went from smoking pot, to taking liquid LSD, and by 16 he was on ice, selling drugs and scamming on the street. He had no job, no meaning in his life,” his mother says.

“He didn’t want to get better, wanted to self-destruct. But there was a little boy in there who was screaming out,” she says.

It was after Rain’s 19th birthday in April of 2012 that his drug use and mental distress began to escalate. He started travelling and was living in Sydney, where he began using heroin. “He came home with bruises all up his arms,” Rebecca says. “I knew he’d been raped and beaten. He’d prostitute himself for his habit.”

By the time his drug dependency and mental state were extreme enough for him to be detained, the pathways in his brain had been rewired and damaged and his prospects of achieving a better quality of life were severely diminished. Rain had been admitted to hospital, for overdose or drug-induced psychosis, short term, on several occasions, but was never deemed to be in need of psychiatric assessment.

Many of the reasons people give for refusing help are the very reasons that show they are in need of help.

In October of 2012, two months before his death, Rain’s mental condition had become so chaotic that he was deemed worthy of psychiatric assessment and he was involuntarily detained to Richmond clinic mental health unit at Lismore Base Hospital. It was there that he encountered Dr Harry Freeman. After two weeks, Rain was sent to a day-patient methadone program, but after one week on the program, he began using heroin on top of the methadone and was kicked off the program.

When The Global Mail contacted Freeman, he was taken aback to hear that Rain had died, but says, “A large number of those sort of people just don't survive for long enough to be sensible enough to stop”.

“Treating these people is not a great idea. That's just grabbing them at the bottom of the cliff- you've got to stop them from jumping and that means having different attitudes in the society”.

Rebecca wants to know why he hadn’t been detained earlier, why he didn’t receive treatment before it was too late. “He’d been kicked out of every caravan park, every house in the area. There was no shelter in the area and after two days the youth house imposed on him a life ban. He’d turned up in emergency a few times for overdosing and still he was never made to be assessed,” she says.

Di Mahoney is the director of Byron Youth Service, which Rain attended on and off over three years. “He was a very smart kid who knew how to work around things,” she says.

“We support young people to make choices and to access services and help that are out there for them and we do that to the best of our ability. Sometimes that’s really difficult. Sometimes young people don't want to access services and help.”

<p>courtesy Rebecca Ireland</p>

courtesy Rebecca Ireland

James Pitts explains the cycle that he sees from time to time in psychotic patients who voluntarily front up to Odyssey House.

“When a patient is in treatment, their situation is not so dire that you can have them scheduled, then when they leave, there is nobody to monitor their behavior and the next time they visit they have deteriorated significantly. Assuming that they respond well to treatment, they recover.” He says, “so there’s never a situation where someone is able to see them at their worst in the community, when they might say, ‘Look, we need to put you in the hospital for 30 days.’”

“Certainly I have on rare occasions had people who, no matter what you did, their condition was so chaotic that you could keep them for a while, but as they started to function better they would make a decision to leave, and you couldn't do anything about it”.

Towards the end of his life, when Rain was travelling the east coast of Australia, every now and then, when his psychosis got too strong to bear, he would check himself into a treatment facility in pursuit of methadone to calm himself. His mother believes he was admitted to hospitals both in Brisbane and Sydney, and had been to other mental-health and drug centres within the 1,000 or so kilometres that separate the two cities. But how often he visited, where he visited and how he was advised is unknown.

The chain between drug-and-alcohol and mental-health services in Australia is weak and in some parts broken: availability of care is varied and the most effective treatment is available at only a few private pioneering institutions in the big cities.

“If somebody's under the influence of drugs it’s very difficult to diagnose a mental illness – because you have to wait for the drug effects to leave.”

“At the moment, the system relies on individual clinicians talking to each other. There is no broader infrastructure system or approach to how it should happen, which would be more helpful but there's just not the resources there at the moment. So it relies on an individual clinician making those links and following up with people and monitoring them over time. But often that’s not people’s jobs and their workload is so huge that they can't do that,” Dr Katherine Mills says.

Rebecca wonders whether – had a strong communication and monitoring system been in place – the cumulative reports of Rain’s illness would have led to an earlier assessment.

She found the lack of knowledge about her son’s whereabouts and mental state maddening.

“I know everyone means well, but services need to talk to each other and they need to work with families to create a safety net,” she says.

The Department of Health and Ageing is currently rolling out a program across Australia called Partners in Recovery, which aims to provide a system to help existing mental-illness-support services work in a more “collaborative, co-ordinated and integrated way”. They plan to develop strong networks between sectors and services to assist “individuals … reported too often fall through the system gaps and require more intensive support to meet the complexity of their needs”.

But the majority of addiction services remain separate from mental-health services and continue to lack the infrastructure that is needed to track often itinerant substance abusers.

Rebecca knew that, since he was a boy, her firstborn son had an unusual mind. At school Rain’s teachers reported that he had a remarkable intellect, but found friendships difficult and had trouble with sequencing (remembering sequences of information or actions). His kindergarten teacher suggested that he should be checked for ADHD. He also reported hearing voices from a young age, and there had been cases of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in his family history, but he himself was never diagnosed with a mental illness.

<p>courtesy Rebecca Ireland</p>

courtesy Rebecca Ireland

Some children like Rain may now benefit from an early-intervention program being introduced in NSW and Victoria. The new school-based drug and alcohol-education program, run by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), is currently targeting 3,000 children who have personality traits that put them at risk of substance addiction. According to NDARC, around 40 per cent of Year 8 students display one of these personality traits: sensation seeking, impulsivity, anxiety or negative thinking. In addition, children with mental or psychiatric disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are deemed at much greater risk of drug addiction than others.

Dr Nicola Newton who heads the prevention program says: “Drug and alcohol problems cost our community dearly; not only financially, but in the functioning and future life options of our young people. Our early intervention research is aimed at giving young people the tools to best manage personality traits which make them vulnerable, and to help them to make the right decisions in any given situation.”

It is late in the afternoon; Rebecca comes inside from the verandah to sit on the couch. Rain’s 10-year-old brother Jack races around, leaping over couches and shooting at her with an empty water gun. She holds in her hands a necklace made from a guitar string.

During his time detained in hospital in November 2012, Rain had been sedated and was swimming in an induced lethargy. “He’s prescribed 10 valium a day and on methadone and he was so out of it, he could barely keep his eyes open,” Rebecca says.

“He’d so broken down in a lot of ways that I could really see the real him coming out. The little boy got bigger in a way.” It was there that he made his mother the necklace, with 19 coloured beads threaded either side of a stone. “It was something that he would have done when he was five,” she says. Rain had been a young boy on the cusp of adolescence when he began experimenting with drugs.

“He was a child when it happened to him and he never got to grow up,” she says.

50 comments on this story
by Amanda

What a magnificent piece of journalism. Thank you for the care you have put into producing this terribly sad story.

August 20, 2013 @ 10:37pm
by Jodie

Heart breaking stuff. Rebecca, if I could I would give you a lot of hugs.

August 21, 2013 @ 10:36am
by Lynell Crowther

such a good piece, you did this story with such respect and care and for that you should be proud,such a sad story :( my condolences to Rains' family R.I.P Rain

August 21, 2013 @ 12:01pm
by ann

I'm very sorry for what happened to her son and much more should have been done for him.
Young people listen to other young people or sports heros and other innovative approaches must be developed that doesn't involved forced ineffective treatment.Psychiatrists need to change their attitudes and be more approachable to young people.
However she is mistaken in believing that if he was scheduled or forced to have treatment that things would somehow have worked out better.
Involuntary scheduling just becomes a revolving door system-it doesnt work.
Many are forcefully given Antipsychotics and while they work for some,for others they have no beneficial effects and the person just receives the sideeffects of massive obesity,metabolic problems, cardiac disease,and deprivation of liberty.
Many people are scheduled and they continue to take illegal drugs

August 21, 2013 @ 1:37pm
by zak

Amazing story-well documented

August 21, 2013 @ 5:49pm
by Bob Howden

The Ted Noffs Foundation used to employ counsellors and psychologists but don't any more.
They need to reconsider this.

August 22, 2013 @ 11:43am
by Mick T

Powerful story. Great journalism.

August 22, 2013 @ 1:44pm
by AJ

Congrats Ella, brilliant moving work. A story that needs to be told.

August 22, 2013 @ 2:38pm
by Nicqui Yazdi

Thank you Ella & Daniel, very powerful journalism and film. Rain was a little boy lost and I got to know him well over a number of years, when he was studying at the YAC. He also regularly used to come down on a Friday night, often very early, tell me he was looking forward to hanging out, but within a few hours he would slip away and arrive back in a state where I'd have to say no to him coming in, as in the short time he was away, he would have scored some drugs or somehow managed to get very intoxicated and with a 'drug & alcohol-free policy' at the YAC, it meant that he just couldn't be a part of it. We would often start our conversation early in the evening, with me reminding him to stay straight, because it was going to be a great night, and he would tell me, "yes I will tonight, I promise", but the urges that took over him and the temptations that came his way when he would disappear and come back, were just far stronger than his will to stay straight to enjoy something with other young people his age. It was a constant battle with Rain, and as much as it was in him to want to be a part of what other kids his age were doing, he was caught up in an underworld of homelessness, dodgy drug dealers who saw nothing wrong in dealing to children, which Rain was, and of course, mental health issues that plagued him, which the drug abuse only made far, far worse. I thank Rebecca, for bravely sharing her journey with her beautiful son and I hope that her honestly and her heart-break will help to educate others on what a difficult journey it is for parents and their children, when substance abuse and mental health problems affect the lives of our youth... Their story is a way too common one and the way the system is at the moment, just doesn't work and unfortunately way too many young lives are lost... I hope that one day soon, we find a way that helps these young people and their families... ♥

August 23, 2013 @ 9:20am
by Donna Gordon

This is so true! We have been there also, and many others.

D

August 23, 2013 @ 2:21pm
by dorothy jones

Such a tragedy! And all too common. When will the authorities learn to listen to the parents, involve the families and recognise that people with drug addictions and other forms of mental illness are unable to make informed decisions? We recognise that people under the influence of alcohol are unfit to be behind the wheel of a car and yet we allow seriously disturbed people to steer their own course through life, destroying themselves and others in the process.

August 24, 2013 @ 7:57am
by Samantha Forrester

Gut wrenching story . Thank you for bravely telling your story. Intervention between adolescent mental health services, education & child protection needs to be developed. Too often children like Rain are on the radar of various services but all are constrained by what can be done. Interventions for most are bandaids on the overwhelming chaos & trauma that is their lived experience.
I long for the day when I can be apart of a response that is preventative, wholistic & can stay engaged with young people till they get to the other side of the darkness.

August 24, 2013 @ 8:06am
by amanda kenyon

Excellent piece of journalism. Unfortunately there are toi many stories like this. We can only hope that the more people speak out the sooner changes will be made to our health system to stop individuals from falling through the cracks

August 24, 2013 @ 9:21am
by Ilona

We as a community desperately need to look at the holes in the services between drug and alcohol treatment and mental health. The link between addiction and mental health issues is massive and obvious. It makes no sense that we ping-pong people who need help between these two services. October is mental health month and I urge all people to start talking about this issue with their families and look at ways they can help. Rains death was avoidable and he deserved help. Our community let him and his family down and I think it's important to remember that when someone is incapable of making decisions for themselves then we need to help them. Rain was beyond the point of being able to accept and handle personal responsibility and we need to help anyone child that this happens to.
Thank you Ella Rubeli for a well informed article.
Yours with hope
Ilona Harker

August 24, 2013 @ 10:03am
by Kurt

I was profoundly moved by this story. Thank you to Rebecca for sharing her anguish, and her courage. My condolences to Rain's family and friends. Let's keep our eyes and hearts open to try and do all we can for our young people.

August 24, 2013 @ 11:07am
by Inders

Congratulations Ella for a magnificent example of investigative people-journalism. The addendum could be the benefits of legalising ALL illicit drugs, with proper regulation and control, to keep them off the streets and out of the hands of thugs.
The one other imperative is that people developing problematic drug-use behaviours be assigned to the medical arena, so as not to risk criminalisation.

August 24, 2013 @ 1:16pm
by Vicki

I first met Rebecca and Rain when he was in pre-school. A more beautiful little boy would not be possible. Rebecca was a young mother but, such a wonderful loving and dedicated mum. What happened to Rain Ireland could happen to any of our children. He was loved, cared for, educated, hugged and played with - everything good parents who look after their kids do, Rebecca did with all her heart. As a society we should be saddened and ashamed of what became of this gorgeous boy's life. I truly hope we will all learn by this story being told. I think all the welfare organisations, doctors, drug counsellors etc need to start communicating with each other now. I will always remember Rain Ireland as being the most beautiful dark-eyed little boy with a ready smile. Rebecca did everything she could to save her son. She should not have had to. No-one should have to bury their 19 year old son. We are all responsible for each other.

August 24, 2013 @ 7:42pm
by Ian G

An amazingly powerful and moving examination of the loss of another young life to drugs and its impact on others. Rest in peace.

August 24, 2013 @ 9:04pm
by Deidi Vine

Beautifully told! heart wrenchingly painful to read of Bec's struggle with her beautiful boy... it truly highlights the flaws in our system, but hopefully WILL inspire some much needed changes, ie the close monitoring of patients over a 'relevant' period of time, to truly evaluate their condition! so as to offer suitable assistance before a tragedy occurs!
much love to you Bec... and may you rest in peace Rain!

August 26, 2013 @ 2:36am
by Rob E

A sad story well told - again and again. Too often those voices in the head are louder than the ones outside.

August 26, 2013 @ 1:29pm
by Karen Quine

... such a sad story - my heart goes out to Rain's mum. so hard for a mum to feel so powerless when her precious boy was in need. we must do what it takes to get earlier intervention & start closing those cracks. beautifully told Ella.

August 26, 2013 @ 11:09pm
by Robert Bleakley

A tragic sequence of events brought about by an under resourced but nevertheless flawed health care system. Early intervention is paramount. I am wedded to compulsory admission to a treatment facility, with a history such as Ryan's, notwithstanding respecting patients rights and individual liberty. I was formally Chief Psychiatric Social Worker in Qld. Health and later Director, Community Corrections and I had quite a deal of hands on experience with young people who lost their lives because the system failed them.

August 27, 2013 @ 11:16am
by Antony Day

After reading this story, I feel as if I can't breathe. A heartbreaking tale, well told, as usual the global mail shows what journalism should be like. magnificent

August 27, 2013 @ 4:38pm
by Brigid Pearse

Love you Rainy. Thanks for telling this side of the story. Xoxox

August 27, 2013 @ 8:30pm
by Olivia Mashett

Another KISS loving, easily distracted, kind hearted boy whom I loved and cared for through early years of highschool. fallen to the pressures and bad influences of the Byron Bay area. so many kids have come close and have unfortunately ended their lives being stuck in this vicious cycle I am one of them. I saw Rain becoming more and more distant then less passionate about the things we loved back in the day.. I often would extend a hand and offer him a place to stay but living out of home in Byron by myself I felt threatened by the people he hung around, people who I didn't know nor understand their friendship. now is the first it has been clear to me I have not seen this article til now. I am heartbroken and send my love to you Rebecca.
Rain journey well.

August 28, 2013 @ 8:57am
by Viv Goldstein

As we weep with Rebecca, my belief is that Rain has been drawn out of his pain by the Mystery of Life and that he is even now becoming his true self, free of all that was holding him back... May Rebecca's tears gradually give way to a new awareness, a sense of a new connection with her Rain - the little boy is now free to receive her love and to give his love in return... Thank you to Ella and team, to Rebecca and Guy... speaking truth takes courage, but we are told the truth will set us free.

August 28, 2013 @ 4:38pm
by John ferguson

This sad sad tale brings me to tears ... And fury that we don't focus more on effective , coordinated society wide prevention and treatment of alcohol and other drug problems. How brave you are Rebecca - thank you for sharing Rain's story - it will have an impact I'm sure. And thank you Ella for such a sensitive piece that also gave info on important initiatives that need more prominence.

August 28, 2013 @ 5:54pm
by Max Hanna-Leeson

Throughout primary school rain was a good mate to us all, so full of life, always happy, throughout high school we slowly stopped hanging out, but kept in touch. I know we have had our ups and downs but you will always be my mate. R.I.P buddy and my condolences to the family.

August 30, 2013 @ 12:09am
by Hannah T

RIP. Rain was such a lovely person. I'm so sorry this happened. Much love.

August 30, 2013 @ 8:10am
by Sam Frizell

Touching, and striking

August 30, 2013 @ 8:44am
by e evans

Rip rain

August 30, 2013 @ 11:43am
by BozB Jones

Amazingly hard journey 2 travel Rebecca... yr so brave doing this s2 enable change in the future.
Respect ...

August 30, 2013 @ 6:23pm
by Rose

Such a sad story about another lost youth in our community. It's pleasing to hear that there are program's in place now that acknowledge those teens that are seemingly headed that way. I would love to see any biomedical drs involved in this program too. My 8yr old diagnosed ADHD, ODD and Pyschotic Dyscontrol was looking likely to be headed in a similar direction, but after a diet change and supplementation to help balance his body through gut/brain healing, he is now a stable, intelligent and happy boy. Mental illness etc can benefit from these kinds of treatments and I'm hoping we can help our young people to not have to endure this kind of pain in their lives and also the mothers and families of these kids can be spared unbearable heartache

August 30, 2013 @ 8:15pm
by Amy

Mullumbimby... A place where to many young souls get lost forever

August 30, 2013 @ 8:47pm
by Simone Cher Roach

As a mother whose young children used to play with Rain when they were very young, my heart goes out to Rebeccca Ireland. I remember him as a highly intelligent and spirited lad that my son Julian loved to climb the trees with. I truly commend Rebecca's courage in speaking out about the convoluted bizaare way that the system handled her sons situation. And yet, I take umbridge to the comment been made in reference to Mullumbimby as a colection of lost young souls. My hometown, your hometown, anybodys place. This destructive downspiral that some people succumb to due to a combination of mentall illness (undiagnosed or not) and drug taking is an anathema to life itself. Having lost my mother who was only 40 at the time to a similar cruel fate, I believe that humanity should show more compassionate understanding, and less pernicious judgement.

August 31, 2013 @ 12:14pm
by Eli

I dont think Mullum is a good place to bring up children I mean it's a pretty place but is not worth losing them to drugs... I could name a handful of people that have lost their minds loving there and three that took their own lives... There is nothing there for them and nothing to do.... It's a drug filled place and half the parents are on drugs too it's not uncommon for the parents to smoke weed with the children and supply them with drugs... It's a very sad way to live and I am just lucky we moved away... I feel for the children that grow up that way... It's very sad

September 1, 2013 @ 9:00pm
by Susan Gray

The very sad part of this story is mental health workers really stumble I checked into Tweed Hospital as unwell emotionally, it took 6 hours in intake and then I was told they didn't know if they would admit me. Finally I was admitted into the mental health clinic where a female co patient touched me up and followed me around. I checked out told I couldn't get a taxi voucher because I lived in a house but home was 30 ks away I paid for my own taxi.
This was after my local doctor had seen fit to ambulance me to hospital. I simply went home and had to cope alone. I had put my hand up and there was no one there of any real substance. This is why we have real fall out these problems are fixable..... I feel sorry that another life has slipped though the cracks.

September 3, 2013 @ 9:14am
by Genevieve

This is such a sad story, a journey we have had with my own son. It is not the location that is the cause, this same story can happen any were, we lived in Melbourne. The thing that is hardest to understand when you are going through this is the requirement for the young person to make the decision to comply with treatment. The article makes the valid point that the very fact of their drug taking and lifestyle would indicate someone facing a huge internal struggle needing some assistance. Assistance they often resist at every turn. My son has survived and is now 31 but is severly disabled as a result and on strong medication to help with his schizophrenia. He still struggles to resist illicit drugs and has had to remove himself from all his former acquaintances, he doesn't even trust himself to have a mobile phone. Thankfully he is now in regular contact with his family and we will continue to love and support him as best we can. He was a very able student at one of Melbourne's best schools and has been through both the private and the public health systems. He was an involuntary patient many times and his affairs are now looked after by the State, such a waste of a beautful young person. There is 12 years of anguish behind that last sentence. I wish I knew what the answer is to avoiding this happening to others over and over again. Certainly early intervention is critical but in our case resistence of there being an issue was there from the very start.

September 3, 2013 @ 9:22am
by Ilana

Too too sad for words. But words are all there are to try to help others avoid the same fate.
I'm a GP in melbourne and gave seen too many similar cases.
I'm now a big believer in early intervention for troubled children with mental health issues under the age of 12. Also the use of medication may prevent the use if drugs in some children , for instance using Ritalin in ADHD has been shown to refuce the risk of drug and alcohol addiction in these children.
How did this young soul fall through the cracks.? How come his paranoid delusions were not treated earlier?
Often parents are frightened of the side effects of medication but consider the side effects of unchecked mental health illness......
Poor Rain and his mother they must have gone through hell. I can only imagine that if I struggle to find services for young people in Melbourne how much harder it must be in Northern NSW.
My heart goes out to Rebecca.

September 9, 2013 @ 9:39am
by Peter Elwood

Are we our brother's keepers? Even if we want to be and our brother does not want our help? Ultimately this question must be answered by the elected politicians, so the question will never be answered. The politicians run for office on other roads looking for other results.
Medical people dealing with the bodies and minds of others are guided by laws. Not by logic or compassion, but by laws. Doctors, nurses and other care givers all come to a point in time when they look at a patient, identify the problem, then have to decide if they can chance their own careers by helping. The caregivers are afraid of the law, the patients use the law to get what they want.
The world is not perfect, bad things happen. Be very careful.

September 19, 2013 @ 6:28am
by Chance Barberi

Yes very sad, but I don't understand what everyone expects. It seems the only way to effectively treat someone who doesn't want to give up drugs is to take them out of society against their will for at least the several months it takes for their bodies to adapt to being off drugs. Frankly, re-education would also be needed before such people could be allowed back with any real possibility of remaining drug free. No one is prepared to do that so you will just have to accept that people who take drugs will likely die or ruin the lives of everyone they come into contact with. And also accept that people, INCLUDING teenagers, do have to take responsibility for their actions. This kid knew what he was doing.

September 22, 2013 @ 7:02am
by Father

We have a 16-year old son in a similar situation. Heavy drug use, dropped out of school and absolutely refuses to acknowledge any kind of problem or take part in any kind of counselling or treatment. We have tried everything - even taken him overseas for six months to a 'better environment' to try clean him up. Didn't work. There is nowhere to turn. We fear for the future.

September 27, 2013 @ 2:45pm
by Maxine Barry

From my experience both personally and from facilitating a bereaved parents' group, it seems pretty clear that drug use is an attempt at self-medication. We need school counsellors - not necessarily psychologists - who can recognise the signs of mental illness and link children to services to help them cope.

October 5, 2013 @ 10:52pm
by Steve Brown

Unfortunately I have a son in a similar position and it is impossible to convince him that drugs magnify physcotic behaviour in his case. Unless they acknowledge there is a problem it is impossible to help them and you are forced to watch as they destroy their lives. Eventually you move away as they tend to damage all the family members trying to help. It is very tragic to see in our privileged society while other struggle to survive in poorer countries.

October 15, 2013 @ 9:37am
by Vanessa Iacono

Tragic Story.. If there is mental illness in families and someone is showing signs of "hearing voices" at a young age and advised to be tested for ADHD, then listen and action on this. If Rain's mental illness had been diagnosed at a young age, it may have prevented him on turning to drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with his life and be put on medication to prevent episodes. I myself have a mental illness and it is very hard to maintain but meds keep my brain working and I am able to function.
I really feel for a lost soul named Rain whom could have had a chance of life if it were dealt with when he was an innocent child.
Rest in Peace XX

October 16, 2013 @ 8:48pm
by Rose Rath

So sad this angel slipped through the system and the sexual predators preyed on his innocence. sexual abuse therapy should be conducted in mental health hospitals and not ignored. May the mental health laws change, to protect the youth,keep them in therapy and family and carers informed when they are at risk,an what is happening in there life especially to carers. Confidentiality laws should be changed, this is causing death to our youth who cannot make clear decision,and monitor their health and safety and Rehab .Do not release them unless follow up.e.g weekly visits to doctors or carers who are linked to centrelink to give them weekly payments rather than fortnightly and find out how they are coping where they are.This could be a small start an safety net,May there be some protection for other children who face the same reality as Rain.Let as learn from Rain and others who faced this harsh sad life,

October 20, 2013 @ 10:14pm
by Catty

To lose a child must be the worst of life's tragedies.
A history of familial mental illness is a big factor here; as it is in my family.
We have lost two family members to lifelong 'care' (for which we are grateful because their behaviour is exhausting, destructive and intolerable for us to manage full-time). And one precious young person has been lost to depression, drug use and eventual suicide. Other family members are on lifelong medication for depression.
I grew up with dope freely available and enough peer pressure to smoke it more than I wanted to. But, with my own mental instability, I soon stopped.
As for my own children as they grew up, I told them that we have only one brain which is delicately balanced and must be cared for, otherwise we can damage it irreparably.
This fact for me is a key piece of information to get across to children/teenagers, if at all possible and without drumming it in - a very difficult task.
Rose, I believe that young people have too much income which can be used for drugs and alcohol. If we all had to work hard to earn our keep, we'd possibly be better of socially/emotionally.

Of course there are no easy answers and I send my story in good faith and my heartfelt sorrow to those who lose family to the tragedy of mental illness and drug damage.

October 23, 2013 @ 10:31am
Show previous 47 comments
by Ly de Angeles

Rebecca, I am so sorry for your loss. This has been the shadow over Byron Bay for the entire twenty two years I lived there. So many dead children. So little help. We cannot blame the mental health system, it is underfunded and understaffed and there is too little vigilance. Deeply sad, Ly x

October 23, 2013 @ 12:21pm
by Rose Rath

I feel strategies should be taught in school , younger the better,to help children cope with ups and downs, that life dishes out to everyone.This would enable children to have the tools to cope with stress,e.g practice breathing exercises, healthy ways to communicate so you can be heard , education on drugs ,substance abuse,effective ways to to problem solve ,an to know all issue do pass.Where to seek support and community services. What is healthy friendships.and so on.When I went to school we had Personal Development classes ,it was basic,but we must advance, I think there is little or nothing.This kind of compulsory education I,m sure would lower suicide in our precious youth.My condolences to you Rebecca and all other parents who have suffered great loss of their loved ones .

November 5, 2013 @ 12:58pm
by merlin geikie

This is a sad story but one of the few that become public. We all know we are surrounded by such miseries.

Our culture (society) exists in a predatory relationship with individuals and families.

To expect the society to help is expecting a function for which the machine is not designed.
Increasingly enormous, clearly sometimes unbearable strains and stresses are borne by individuals and families, some of which shatter and splinter into non existence by the trauma.

This is the nature of western society and there is no end or salve in sight, I am sorry to say.

The only relief is to turn inwards and develop strength and if that is not possible then the quickest end is the kindest and most humane. We are not allowed to let our pain tortured pets live and to do so is in itself, a fundamentally torturous existence.

This Land Australia is marked by this breathtaking trauma and has been so for over two hundred years now. The trauma extends far far back, couched in contempt, disrespect and disgust.

The sicknesses re-enact and re-place the unhealed wound.

I have no answers except for my own sometimes desperate notions. I do not take on a responsibility which is not mine. I am here to observe, not to change or advise but to get through this until, eventually, I simply can't.

November 9, 2013 @ 9:37pm
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