Canberra Times

Print this article | Close this window

Rebecca Rosengrave tackling the mental health system with Gumtree Gargoyles

Jil Hogan

Published: April 20 2017 - 12:15AM

The final year of her twenties was a rough one for Rebecca Rosengrave. Living in Belconnen at the time, she left both a high-flying career and an unhealthy relationship, and in an attempt to do some soul searching, sold all of her belongings and moved to the UK.

Three months into her new life, she received a call that her father had died.

"I was actually boarding a flight for a fun weekend away in Norway and my sister called me and said 'mum's found dad. I think you'd better come home'," said Rosengrave.

"I'd cleared customs and was literally at the boarding gate, it was just horrendous. So I ended up coming back to Australia."

While it came as a shock, the sudden death marked the end of 15 years of trying to get help for her father who had severe mental health issues.

"He was a hoarder, he was depressed, he was an alcoholic and I'm positive that he would have suffered from a number of other illnesses, but we'll never know for sure because the system couldn't, wouldn't and didn't help," she said.

"Every time we begged for help, we were met with the same response: that he has human rights and no one can force him to get help.

"I feel the medical industry is scared to address mental illness, they're scared to breach this notion of human rights for fear of being questioned. So how can a frightened medical industry deliver satisfactory care if they're scared of the very people that they're meant to be caring for?"

It's this struggle that inspired her first book Gumtree Gargoyles. Still feeling the need to escape, Rosengrave moved back to Europe in the aftermath of her father's death, this time to Sweden where she worked in an Australian pub.

"I was still trying to deal with the fact that I didn't know what I was doing and then my father's death, and I just got ridiculously intoxicated one night, and woke up the next morning incredibly seedy, next to my laptop, and I just read what was on the screen and I realised that I'd written the first couple of chapters," she said.

The story is a fantasy novel for young adults, and focuses on a woman named Katie as she struggles to deal with the political consequences of her father's suicide. The story is based in Canberra, and the characters are inspired by members of her family.

While Rosengrave is now based in Melbourne, she is coming to Canberra to launch the book at Impact Comics on Saturday April 22 from 5-7pm. Gumtree Gargoyles is also available on Amazon.

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

This story was found at: