A Charles Sturt University student is calling for greater support for young people's mental health after she was evicted from her campus accommodation following a suicide attempt.
Kaitlyn Duncan waited 16 months with no resolution to a formal complaint she made to the university ombudsman and says she feels discouraged by her experience.
She has shared her story in the hope of making the ombudsman system more equitable for everyone, as well as to highlight the challenges young people in Wagga can face when trying to access services.
"It's disappointing that when you're trying so hard that you can't find anything ... It's not like I want to be stuck in this bad mental health. It's just I can't find any way to get out of it," she said.
"And it's a common experience with all my friends that, like, we're trying, we're trying but it's just like this barrier between us and services."
The psychology student, now aged 23, said she was told to vacate CSU's Residence Life accommodation in May 2019 after returning from Wagga Base Hospital following an attempt to take her own life.
A letter from the university dated June 4, 2019, seen by The Daily Advertiser, confirmed her eviction and advised Ms Duncan her actions demonstrated she was no longer capable of living independently.
"I trust that you also understand that we are concerned that if this impact is ongoing that the University can not accept the risk that any further instances will magnify the injury to others," the letter said.
Ms Duncan accepted the decision but her disappointment in the way it had been handled prompted her to lodge a complaint with the CSU ombudsman, seen by The Daily Advertiser.
She said she was distressed and felt "shunned by the university".
"After returning home from hospital I was offered no support, I was directly told not to speak to anyone about anything in fears of their safety and 'if you need help call security ... and they will call an ambulance'," she wrote in her complaint.
The university's website says its ombudsman is an "impartial and confidential" resource for students that helps "create a campus climate where matters raised are investigated and resolution is facilitated".
But Ms Duncan waited for longer than a year with no response despite multiple follow up emails, the most recent of which was sent on March 17 this year and has been seen by this masthead.
"It makes me angry, to be honest. Because these are the people you're meant to go to when things are going wrong," she said.
The Daily Advertiser asked CSU for a comment on September 28 and Ms Duncan said the ombudsman contacted her afterwards.
A CSU spokesperson said the university "takes all complaints very seriously".
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"The time taken for the University to resolve a complaint is very dependent on the nature and complexity of the specific case," the spokesperson said.
"We welcome any individual who feels dissatisfied with the management of their complaint to escalate the matter to the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for assistance."
Both the university ombudsman and CSU's Residence Life director declined to be interviewed.
Ms Duncan said she struggled to find affordable mental health care in Wagga after moving from Corowa in early 2019.
She said she had been seeing a counsellor in Wodonga but used up her Mental Health Care Plan, a Commonwealth-funded program which then allowed people to access Medicare rebates for up to 10 therapy sessions a year with a mental health professional.
It was then she said her health started to deteriorate and she began feeling "stuck in a loop of services" in Wagga, which eventually culminated in an attempt to take her own life.
In the 16 months since the incident, Ms Duncan has found another place to live, resumed her studies and is feeling optimistic about the future.
She plans to use her passion for mental health to pursue a career in academic research and wants to one day work in Wagga to help others.
If you need support or are struggling with mental illness, please contact any of these crisis support helplines:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- Kids Helpline (for people aged 5-25 years): 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 www.beyondblue.org.au
- If you are in the Murrumbidgee, you can use this free online resource to locate services: mapmyrecovery.org.au