Brooke admits she was in a “dark place”.
Brooke admits she was in a “dark place”.

‘Dark place’: Mum’s nightmare struggle to survive

WITH her picture-perfect lifestyle, Brooke looked like she had it all.

The former model, the mother of two beautiful little girls, presented a glamorous facade to the outside world.

But in reality, she was struggling to cope with everyday tasks.

"I kind of hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of my emotions," Brooke told the ABC's Four Corners.

"I think when you suppress a lot of it, you kind of... ..you're going to blow, in a sense, if things kind of keep building up. There is a point. There is a limit.

"I was definitely in a dark place and even my thoughts. I think when my thoughts started to get a lot worse, that's when I knew that there was an issue."

Brooke struggled with parenting, saying she “hit a brick wall”.
Brooke struggled with parenting, saying she “hit a brick wall”.

Brooke, from Sydney's Penrith, is one of the parents across Australia taking part in SafeCare, an intensive parenting program.

The program, the ABC's Four Corners reports, is for children between the age of zero and five who are at risk of abuse or neglect.

It runs over 18 to 20 weeks with a specially trained SafeCare worker visiting the home and teaching parents skills from three modules: health, safety and parent-child relationships.

Brooke's case worker Louise Vincin, who works for the Wesley Mission, says Brooke, with her pristine home and designer clothes, "may not look like your average family that would be referred to SafeCare".

Sydney mum Brooke with her daughters Peyton and Taylor.
Sydney mum Brooke with her daughters Peyton and Taylor.

But the young mum to Peyton, four, and Taylor, three, has struggled with suicidal thoughts and was treated in hospital for her mental health issues.

"She's quite gorgeous and glamorous and she's been on a top modelling show. Her home is really quite different to some of the other homes we go into, and she presents like you'd wonder why she's in the SafeCare program.

"So I think it really just highlights that there's often a lot going on underneath the families that we work with and in their lives."

Peyton and Taylor with the family’s case worker, Louise Vincin.
Peyton and Taylor with the family’s case worker, Louise Vincin.

Brooke told Four Corners her cleaning obsession was "a form of a habit that gets my mind off the chaotic things around me".

"The cleaning has definitely been a way of, I wouldn't say a majority of avoiding the kids, but it's easy to say, 'OK. I've got to go and clean,' rather than have to kind of sit with them or, I guess, have that attention towards them. So it's easier to do something that you're more comfortable with."

Brooke told Four Corners that in her darkest moments, she hit rock-bottom.

"I definitely had thoughts about checking out. I remember locking myself in the laundry and saying to my girlfriend that, 'I can't do it. "I'm done with life. I can't cope.'

"And I would find myself having panic attacks in the car. I'd have to pull over. I would find myself screaming, just screaming. The only way out was ... checking out."

Deemed by her SafeCare worker to be no longer a risk to her children, Brooke told Four Corners she felt like she had come a long way.

"I'd say I've done pretty well. I think, you know, seeing myself where I am now from where I was last year is crazy."

 

Amber says parenting made her feel anxious.
Amber says parenting made her feel anxious.

 

In Victoria's Rosebud, sole parent Amber is also taking part. The mother to Nara and Roman told Four Corners she signed up to SafeCare to give herself the best chance of gaining the skills she needed.

"I wasn't ordered to do this course," she told Four Corners. "I've done this course by choice because you choose to better yourself for your children. You choose to make ... you want a better life."

Amber's case worker, Bev, said there was no sign of neglect in the family household. Instead, there was a lack of structure.

Bedtime was the worst, Amber told Four Corners.

"This place was a bomb site. I had pillows and doonas and little foam cot mattresses all over the lounge room floors, 'cause I couldn't get the kids to sleep.

"I couldn't get them for the life of me. I was trying. There were times where we would still be awake at two, three, and the worst one was five o'clock in the morning.

"I didn't think I was good enough because how do I get my babies to sleep? If I can't get my babies to go to bed and go to sleep, I mustn't be a good enough parent. The anxiety that would come from that, bedtime would be a nightmare."

The Victorian mum, with daugher Nara, struggled with establishing a routine.
The Victorian mum, with daugher Nara, struggled with establishing a routine.

Bev has taught Amber about setting rules for Nara and Roman and managing their behaviour when they throw tantrums.

"We were down the street last week and I had a lady stop us. It was lovely to actually get some really nice feedback from a stranger to say how beautiful my kids were and how well behaved," Amber told Four Corners.

"Fourteen weeks ago this wasn't the case. Fourteen weeks back they were demon spawn."

Bev says Amber now has more confidence as a parent.

"That's going to support their development going forward," she said.

Amber told the ABC as her confidence has grown, she can see how the SafeCare program has changed their lives.

"I don't think my children are going to be socially stunted like they possibly were going to be before," she said.

If you or someone you love is in crisis or needs support right now, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.


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