Theo Papageorgiou’s preventable death could help improve SA’s mental health laws

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Theo Nickolas Papageorgiou passed away by suicide in January 2016 at the age of 27 after a long battle with mental illness and unsuccessful attempts to seek medical help.

According to ABC, Theo had visited Riverland General Hospital in Berri, South Australia before his death but was sent home.

A coronial inquest in 2021 found that Theo’s death could have been prevented, but his case was not managed properly and he had been misdiagnosed by the health system.

“Given the inquest and the findings, who takes responsibility for Theo’s mismanagement?” Theo’s dad, Jack Papageorgiou, asked during an interview with ABC. “Let’s face it, the system is failing.”

Theo‘s situation was a significant factor in the South Australian Law Reform Institute’s (SALRI’s) review of the Mental Health Act 2009 (SA), which was presented to the state government on March 19 this year.

Jack Papageorgiou. Photo: ABC

Decisions regarding Theo’s treatment were made without full knowledge of his mental health history, ABC reports, and the lack of sharing of clinical records was identified by the inquest as one of the reasons behind his death.

Olga Pandos, the lead author of the review, said sharing of information was a specific concern for hospitals and services located in remote, rural, and regional areas.

Ms Pandos also noted there were substantial differences between mental health services in metropolitan and regional areas in South Australia.

According to the SA Health Minister, Chris Picton, the state government is currently reviewing the 61 recommendations and 11 suggestions outlined in SALRI’s independent review.

The government will hold further discussions with mental health stakeholders and consumer groups before submitting new legislation to parliament.

Source: ABC

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