THE DEATH of Anne Deveson –writer, broadcaster and social justice advocate – marks the final chapter of a life that reflected the immense change in the way Australians have perceived mental health issues over the past century.
Deveson, who died from Alzheimer’s yesterday at age 86, recalled travelling home from London 40 years ago after her father referred to her mother’s bewildering mental decline in a letter. “Bea is bats,” wrote her father, unable to articulate the subtleties of what we now know was Alzheimer’s disease.
Upon Deveson’s return, her mother described the affliction more poetically: “Anne, I’ve been in a forest and I can’t find my way through.”
If Australians’ understanding of mental illness has altered dramatically since the Deveson family arrived from Malaya as refugees during World War II, their famous daughter could claim much responsibility. Continue reading