24 April 2024

Brontë Haskins' mother calls for more mental health resources after tragic death of daughter

| Albert McKnight
Brontë Haskins

Brontë Haskins was aged just 23 when she died in 2020. Photo: Supplied.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to suicide.

The mother of a 23-year-old whose death was the subject of a coronial inquest is now asking the community to join her call for governments to commit greater resources to mental health support.

Brontë Elouise Haskins died three days after she attempted suicide outside her ex-partner’s home on 18 February 2020, the ACT Coroner said at the end of an inquest last year.

Her mother, Janine Haskins, has now launched an online petition calling for action from all levels of government to help those who are struggling with co-occurring mental health issues and substance use problems.

“In essence, Brontë should still be here today if it wasn’t for systemic failures which simply allowed her to fall through the gaps – unnecessary failures,” she said in her petition.

She told Region she started the petition to raise awareness of co-occurring conditions, an issue which she thought was “pretty rampant” in the population, as well as to raise awareness of mental health issues.

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“Mental health and substance use doesn’t discriminate. They can affect anyone from all walks of life,” Janine said.

“There’s so much harsh stigmatism around people who use illicit substances … and that’s not how I want Brontë to be remembered.

“I want her to be remembered for all the wonderful things she did in her life. Her substance use and mental health did not define her.”

In particular, Janine is calling for more mental health resources from the federal government.

“We should be tackling mental health issues and co-occurring conditions as a nation, not as a jurisdiction,” she said.

She quoted 2022 statistics from Lifeline, including that 8.6 Australians die by suicide every day.

Also, the statistics say people in rural populations are two times more likely to take their life by suicide. Janine said, “There is just not that assistance out there for them”.

young woman holding a dog

After Brontë Haskins died in 2020, her death became the subject of a coronial inquest. Photo: Instagram.

She said while the country appeared to be facing a mental health epidemic, there was more knowledge now about co-occurring conditions.

“We need to be looking holistically at our people and treating them in a holistic manner,” she said.

Brontë’s inquest examined several issues, including her incarceration at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, her bail conditions, and the roles of police and mental health workers in the lead-up to her death.

Coroner James Stewart found no one “can be blamed for Brontë taking her own life”, but he did find there had been lost opportunities to help her.

He identified that the resources allocated to bail supervision at the time were inadequate and did not allow for an acceptable level of supervision and that there had been a week-long delay in the Court Alcohol and Drug Assessment Service attempting to assess her after her release from custody. He noted Janine had tried to get ACT Mental Health involved with her daughter before her death.

Janine said that one year on, she still felt “very disappointed” with the result of the inquest.

“We haven’t been told if the recommendations have been endorsed or not,” she said.

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After being questioned about whether the ACT Government had acted on the inquest’s recommendations, an ACT Corrective Services spokesperson said their department had made several changes to the management and supervision processes for accused persons.

This included implementing the Bail Supervision and Support Policy 2023, the Bail Supervision Community Instruction 2023 and the development of Bail Support Plans. These plans are created with bailees as part of their initial assessment process and help identify and respond to their needs.

Also, an additional bail officer and court duty officer position have been instated to increase support to bailees.

Emma Davidson MLA

Minister for Corrections Emma Davidson (pictured) has thanked Janine Haskins for her work. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

“Mental Health First Aid training, which includes basic assessments around suicide risk, has been mandatory for all community corrections officers, including bail officers since 2021,” the spokesperson said.

“In response to the coroner’s recommendation, ACT Corrective Services is also investigating the feasibility of 48-hour turn-around bail assessment reports.”

Minister for Corrections Emma Davidson said the government increased funding in the 2023-24 ACT Budget to improve coordination across mental health, alcohol and other drug and social services.

“I thank Janine Haskins for the work she continues to do to make sure we remember who Brontë was and improve the way we support people so this does not happen again,” she said.

To view Janine’s petition, visit Change.org.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact:

Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 or Kids Helpline
MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978 or MensLine.

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