The news that a young man was found dead in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens is tragic. The fact that the help he was given did not save his life is also sad. The lack of understanding of what it is like to ‘fall into the cracks’ and slowly die, is an issue that we must address.
We often hear of young people who are already on the road Josh took and we see them featured on TV. In many instances their lives have been full of sadness and lacking in parental guidance. This was not so for Josh. When he returned from the USA after serving time as a ‘camp counsellor,’ he made choices that eventually led to his death. He had times when he worked as a barista and it is reported that he loved his job, but something in him made it impossible for him to hold on to this job and he sunk further into the life of ‘huffing.’
Josh had people around him who cared about him and these people did their best to help Josh change. He attended various ‘services’ but they too were unable to turn Josh around.
What is it that is missing in our ‘wrap-around’ services? What else could have been done other than ‘locking him up’ and treating him until the urge to seek out the harmful substances had subsided? There is nothing that allows for such ‘old fashioned-treatment?’ There was a time when he could have been taken into care and kept away from his demons. The treatment at those facilities would be criticised now as being inappropriate, but with what we know now about ‘treating’ dependency, perhaps Josh would have had a better chance. One gets the feeling that his parents would have gone along with such an approach.
We have departed from treating people like Josh in institutions that have the means to keep them safe for the necessary amount of time needed to make a difference. We also do not have the resources in the community that could make a difference when patients return to society other than a few scattered ‘half-way’ houses.
Do we need to return to the past with some modern twists in order to save these precious young lives? What we lack is the political and collective will as a nation. There will be many more like Josh out there. Have we hardened ourselves to their plight?