Go and have a warm shower, support worker told distraught woman

Sydney Morning Herald/August 12, 2009

A woman who reported having an "awful experience surrounding death", and who later fell to her death from an office building window after completing a self-development course, was told by a volunteer support worker to have a warm shower, a hot drink and "be gentle on herself", an inquest has heard.

Two days after she completed the course, Rebekah Lawrence, 34, made a series of phone calls to the People Knowhow office at Cremorne, which organised the four-day Turning Point Course.

"I've just had a really awful experience surrounding death and ... I've been touched by something really awful and every time I shut my eyes and go into that feeling I just see awful stuff," she said during a phone message to a Turning Point volunteer support worker at 3.50am on December 20, 2005.

An inquest into Ms Lawrence's death heard she later spoke to another support worker who advised the hot shower and drink.

Later that afternoon, just two hours before Ms Lawrence fell from the window, the chief executive of Zoeros, trading as People Knowhow, Geoffrey Kabealo, failed to detect any hint of what was to come during a phone conversation with her, the inquest heard.

"I suggest to you the reason why you could not pick up [that] there was a problem ... was that you simply didn't have the training skills to detect the problem," said counsel assisting the inquest, Robert Bromwich. "That is a possibility," Mr Kabealo replied.

The State Coroner's Court in Glebe was told that none of the teachers or support team at Turning Point had formal qualifications in psychotherapy or counselling to conduct the courses, during which people often became distraught.

Mr Bromwich suggested to Mr Kabealo the "heart of the problem" was that the course was conducted "by people who aren't really qualified to conduct it".

Mr Kabealo said that of the 40,000 who had done the life-skills course in Australia, the US, Britain and New Zealand, none had had an episode like Ms Lawrence did. He was negotiating with a registered psychologist to be involved in the program.

A teacher of the course, Richard Arthur, agreed that processes to identify those too vulnerable to attend the course had been "inadequate". He agreed that staff who dealt with phone calls had been "manifestly ill-equipped" to deal with potential mental health issues that arose after the course.

The inquest continues.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.