Personal experience of life in a Melbourne psychiatric hospital shared in a new book

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Media Release: 13 February 2020

‘Out of the Madhouse–From Asylums to Caring Community?’ by Sandy Jeffs OAM and Dr Margaret Leggatt AM captures the important history of mental healthcare in Australia


A new book written by SANE Ambassador and 2020 Medal of the Order of Australia recipient Sandy Jeffs OAM and SANE Patron and co-founder Dr Margaret Leggatt will officially be launched at The Dax Centre in Melbourne this Thursday February 20, 2020.

Ten years in the making, Out of the Madhouse – From Asylums to Caring Community? was written after interviewing nearly eighty patients, carers and health professionals who were inmates or staff at Larundel Psychiatric Hospital, a cultural icon shrouded in mystery in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora.

After conducting these interviews, the authors were led to ask the question: What have we gained and what have we lost by closing this ‘madhouse on the edge of town’?

The book will be launched by ABC Radio National Science Friction presenter Natasha Mitchell and will be followed by a panel discussion led by SANE CEO Jack Heath. Authors Sandy and Margaret will be joined by prominent mental health professionals and advocates Dr Ruth Vine (former Victorian Chief Psychiatrist), Julie Dempsey (Senior Consumer Consultant, Forensicare) and Michelle Swann (Senior Carer Advisor, Office of the Chief Mental Health Nurse).

Panelists will reflect on past practices chronicled in Out of the Madhouse along with recent developments, such as the shift towards recovery-centred approaches to care, and what we need to do going forward to build effective and inclusive models of care for people living with mental health issues.

SANE CEO Jack Heath said, At a time of Royal Commissions and Productivity Commission Reports, Out of the Madhouse is a timely and heartfelt call to put people at the centre of mental health reform.  Drawing on first-hand accounts, this book speaks to our common humanity across a breadth of experiences and perspectives from Larundel.”

For decades, Sandy Jeffs OAM has been an eloquent advocate for greater understanding of and support for people with schizophrenia, a diagnosis she has lived with since the age of 23. She was in inmate at Larundel in the 70s, 80s and 90s and was driven to write about Larundel to ensure the memory of the institution was not lost after its closure in 1999. Sandy feels lost memory is lost wisdom and it is important for people to know these places existed and what happened within them.

“I wanted to remind the community that Larundel existed and in closing it we may have lost a collective wisdom of how to treat mental illnesses”, Jeffs said.

“We can't go back to Larundel, but we now have a system that is vastly underfunded, over stressed and inadequate. The current Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System suggests there is something very broken and wrong with how we treat the mentally ill. Out of the Madhouse looks at what we gained and what we lost by closing institutions such as Larundel.”

Dr Margaret Leggatt AM has over 40 years of experience in the mental health sector working as a sociologist and occupational therapist. She was the founding director of the Schizophrenia Fellowship in 1978 (now known as Wellways) where she remained for seventeen years, and a co-founder of SANE. Margaret is a passionate advocate for carers and families affected by complex mental illness, is a Board Member for Tandem, the peak body representing family and friends supporting people living with mental health issues in Victoria.

Margaret said, “When Sandy reached out and asked me to help write this book, I saw how important the testimonials were and knew we needed to bring them to life. There are as many perspectives of Larundel as there were people who were there; each bringing their own experience and emotional response to it. As we await the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System we may question, is what we do to care therapeutically for those living with mental illnesses in 2020 any better than what Larundel offered?”

Dr Ruth Vine wrote the foreword for the book and says, “Out of the Madhouse is a must read for all those interested and involved in experiencing or providing mental health services, or caring for a person with a mental illness – which is just about everybody.”

Out of the Madhouse - From Asylums to Caring Community? is published by Australian Scholarly Publishing. To purchase a copy of the book go to www.scholarly.info

Anyone looking for information, support and guidance from mental health professionals can contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. from 10am-10pm AEST. 

For anyone in crisis, call:

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1800 659 467
Mensline: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

To request an interview with the authors Sandy Jeffs OAM and Dr Margaret Leggatt AM, or SANE CEO Jack Heath please contact:

Monday and Tuesday - Ellen Sproule
Phone: 0407 367 215
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - Bianca Lapins
Phone: 0438 092 371
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Download supporting images for media use here.

ABOUT SANE

SANE is a national mental health charity dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of people affected by complex mental health issues.  We work to support the more than four million Australians affected by complex mental health issues including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, complex trauma and severe depression and anxiety.

Last updated: 29 April 2022

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