Mum who tried to kill disabled son speaks
IT was a letter penned by a desperate mother, driven beyond reason, towards a grim, final act.
Yvette Nichol was at breaking point. Abandoned, after three decades of caring for her son, her please for help unanswered and ignored by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
"Please don't hate me for taking (him). I could no longer watch him suffer," wrote Yvette, 63, as she prepared to do the almost unthinkable, and kill her 34-year-old non-communicative autistic and epileptic son.
It would be a mercy killing, she believed. And she would take her own life too.
She'd been his primary carer for his entire life. Her marriage had broken down a year before. She wondered who would care for her son when she died.
He'd been suffering worsening night terrors, some lasting up to an hour. She'd nurse him through them, barely sleeping herself. For days.
In a veil of depression and exhaustion she tried desperately to contact her son's National Disability Insurance Scheme co-ordinator. No answer.
She left a message. No call came back. It was the last straw.
By the next day, May 27, 2017, and Yvette was at the end of her tether.
"I brought him into this world and he will leave with me. May God forgive me, he will suffer no more," she wrote to her former husband.
"I want you to know how sorry I am for doing this. I'm tired of watching your brother suffer, there is no help for him," she wrote to her other son.
To her sisters: "I hope you won't give me a hard time ... I just can't watch my darling suffer anymore," she said.
"He is tormented on a nightly basis ... when you see a rainbow, think of us ... we will be at peace."
She cleaned the house. She even selected funeral songs.
Then she drugged her son and slit his wrist. And did the same to herself.
When they both woke and she realised the murder-suicide attempt had failed, she called triple-0 for help, and confessed.
NOBODY TO HELP
"No mother or father should go where I went," Yvette told Liz Hayes in a 60 Minutes special investigation into the plight of those the NDIS has failed on Sunday night.
"We were going together and I wasn't leaving him behind.
"I was so, so tired," she told Hayes. "I felt there was nothing out there for him.
"After 50 I realised what will happen when we are no longer around.
"There weren't home like nursing homes. there was no brochures for him (like you get for old people's homes)."
In December last year, Yvette pleaded guilty to a single count of attempted murder but was spared jail, with a judge urging compassion, not punishment.
The court heard Nichols had cared for her son his whole life, for much of that time with the help of her husband, but had become his sole carer when their marriage collapsed.
Justice Paul Coghlan told her he had no intention of sending her to jail, unless she fought the charge.
Justice Coghlan sentenced her to a 24 month community corrections order saying her case had true extenuating circumstances.
"The law recognises that there is a place for compassion and for mercy," he said.
"I am satisfied that yours is such a case, a case that calls out for a merciful disposition."
Her lawyer Tim Marsh told the court she had reached crisis point and that "her motivation was one of compassion and love".
"She acted in love, not in anger," Mr Marsh said.
He said she had actively been seeking assistance, but couldn't get any timely help.
Yvette's case was one of several examined by 60 Minutes as Hayes looked into how the controversial NDIS scheme is pushing some families - especially elderly Australians caring full-time for their disabled, adult sons and daughters - to the brink.
A quarterly report released in February revealed the number of complaints about the scheme had soared, with 3880 complaints made directly to the National Disability Insurance Agency [NDIS], which manages the NDIS, in the three months to December.
Most of the complaints were about delays. The next most frequent complain was the scheme doesn't take individual needs into account.
Certainly that was the case for Yvette. With that last unanswered call, she gave up.
She confesses she felt "relieved" when the murder-suicide attempt failed. And she remains racked with guilt. And has cried buckets of tears, but found new strength.
She urged others who may feel as desperate as she did to "scream".
"Call every service possible. Tell them you're not coping," she said.
"I'm not the same person I was then. But I know there's hope. A future for my son and me."
Surviving taught her that.
The NDIS was designed as a way of providing support for Australians with disability, their families and carers, with the intent of better co-ordinating - and funding - disability services.
But its rollout has been plagued by complaints over access, funding, gaps in services, rip-offs, rorts, inflexibility, understaffing, and a reluctance from service providers to work with the government scheme because its cost structure is unworkable.
Hayes revealed that by 2020 an estimated half a million Australians with a disability will still be living at home. More than 32,000 of those will over the age of 45, many with parents in their 70s, 80s and even 90s.
"When faced with the cold truth that they will die, these parents have found the options available to their children are limited," Hayes said.
All the parents want to know is who will care for their adult children, house them, and give them dignity and respect and love and happiness when they die.
"In this lucky country we should have the houses out there," Yvette told Hayes. "But sadly they're not."
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14