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No Middle Name, Tilly Brasch

No Middle Name is a mother’s story of her mentally ill son, Riley Brasch, and a case study of how society and the agencies that were supposed to be helping him ultimately

Riley committed suicide at the age of twenty-six, after a lifetime of struggling to fit into society and being let down by a system unable to deal with him. The reader follows Riley through the trials he faces to overcome his mental illness and to fit into society, yet also learns about who Riley was and the way he viewed life through his humor, his kindness, his innocence and his courage.

Contains references and contacts to relevant Federal and State support agencies, as well as concrete suggestions throughout as to how the system needs to be changed to better assist families in similar circumstances.

Endorsed by SANE Australia and other organisations concerned with the welfare of vulnerable youth.


Tilly Brasch

Tilly appeared in the media and lobbied politicians after the onset of Riley’s illness, where she made an effort to expose the plight of the neglected members of
the community.

No Middle Name stems from her desire to raise public awareness, reform the health system and improve the quality of life for those that still suffer as Riley did.

The book’s release will undoubtedly rekindle public debate about youth suicide and the treatment of the mentally disadvantaged.

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ISBN 9781921479069 (PB)
222mm x 222mm

AUD $27 USD $24 NZD $30 GBP £16 EUR €19

Tilly Brasch’s son Riley liked to ‘decide his own decides’ as early as kindergarten, when he gave himself a middle name. Riley hoped this name would help him fit in with his classmates, but his struggles and suffering would only intensify until his suicide at age 26.

As early as the prologue, the reader knows of Riley’s fate. Tilly’s strengths as a writer allow her to portray the demons of Riley’s mental illness as well as the endearing quirks of her son’s own personality. Riley comes alive on the page as a complex and lovable character, and her portrait may help us overcome fears or prejudices of others with mental illness or suicidal ideation.

While No Middle Name is a moving tribute and a glimpse of a mother’s grief, it is also a sharp accounting of how Riley and his family were failed by many institutions throughout his birth, life and death. The medical profession either ignored Riley’s condition or treated him as an impersonal subject for batteries of tests. Christian and Catholic communities looked the other way as Riley was bullied and beaten throughout his school years. Riley never found adequate care or protection from the police, psychiatric wards, public and private health systems, public housing or the government.

Tilly does not blame these institutions for her son’s suicide, rather she advocates for change, as many of the attitudes and policies towards mental illness and suicide are the same now as when Riley was born in 1971. Statistically, we all know someone who struggles with mental illness or suicidal ideation, yet these topics remain cultural taboos.

No Middle Name moves forward in an almost conversational tone, with simple and direct language. Anecdotes and memories serve to illustrate Riley’s personality as well as foreshadow his early death. The book juxtaposes the unfolding chronology of his life with the startling facts and figures about mental illness and the Queensland health system.

While Tilly consciously decided to leave her anger behind in earlier drafts, No Middle Name could gain more dimension and impact with a stronger hint of her grieving process. In a few instances, tighter editing would have clarified whether Tilly was relating the story about Riley’s personality or about the manifestations of his illness.

Overall, No Middle Name succeeds as a readable tribute and an optimistic force for change. The author donates all proceeds to Stepping Stone Clubhouse, a voluntary support program run by mentally ill members who empower one another.

-Erica Sontheimer (Writing Queesland, Issue 161)

The subject of troubled modern youth springs graphically to life in a new book called No Middle Name. Brisbane author Tilly Brasch candidly details her battle to give meaning to the disturbed world of her mentally ill son. She lost the fight when he lost hope and took his own life. This is no cheap tearjerker. It simply illuminates a problem that is more widespread than any of us realise.

I have just read Tilly’s book and can recommend it to CAPS members for being particularly illuminating about the problems of accessing Mental Health services right here in Brisbane. Tilly Brasch does not “pan” Queensland Health and is in fact constructively working with them right now to bring about much needed reforms.

I believe her book gives greater substance to CAPS’ goal of improving and expanding services (by raising money for the Life Promotion Clinic at AISRAP, as well as the Life Promotion House). This brave book left me with an even greater awareness of the suffering, cost and devastation this huge problem causes in our community and the urgency of CAPS continuing to try our very best to promote and raise awareness about suicide prevention.

— Penny Vandeleur, Secretary, CAPS (Queensland)

In ‘No Middle Name’ Tilly Brasch provides a heart-rending account of Riley’s short, troubled life. With great love and affection she graphically relates how the whole family is affected when someone has a mental illness and how, sadly and short-sightedly, they are too often ignored by the mental health system.

— Barbara Hocking, Executive Director, SANE Australia

This is an engrossing read (so much so that I read it all in one go). It is a resounding indictment of the public mental health system, revealing in the comprehensive story of one representative case an appalling history of neglect by the authorities. It is also a very moving story, and it reminded me very much of Anne Deveson’s biography of her son’s mental illness and suicide (this came out some years ago, and I’m unfortunately unable to remember the title; but it received a good deal of publicity, not only because of Deveson’s public role, but also because she treated the subject in the most uncompromisingly honest manner. This book seems to be of this same ilk).

This is a wonderful human interest story of the type that appears each week on ABC television’s Australian Story. It tells of ordinary people (the narrator and her family) made extraordinary through events not of their own making. I think that the narrative voice works very well – it is erudite, never self-pitying but matter-of-fact in detailing Riley’s disordered conduct and general dysfunctionality. Tilly’s love for Riley is undeniable, even as she manages to convey the difficulty of everyday living with such a tortured individual. This is what basically makes the story so powerful; that the narrator’s love for her son, and her empathy for his condition drives her to tell this extraordinary story.

The narrative is well-structured and rarely flags; description and dialogue are both handled well. There is, happily, little room for sentiment or melodrama, and this adds to the overall effect; it is above all the story of a mother (and a family) coping with both a much loved but always difficult child, and with an unheeding and incredibly unhelpful bureaucratic system. Everything is recounted or explained in a believable, non-hyperbolic manner. It seems to me to be a very worthy piece of creative non-fiction, which should be of interest to quite a wide audience. It is also very topical, given current (perhaps unending) debates about Queensland – indeed, Australian – public health systems and their shortcomings.

Tilly Brasch’s book is beautifully written, and I wish her every success with it. Given the appropriate publicity, it should appeal to a wide readership. I certainly hope that it does.

Sharyn Pearce, Queensland University of Technology



Hear Tilly Brasch interviewed on the ABC (courtesy 4QR, Brisbane). Requires the free RealPlayer®.


Judges’ report on IP Picks 05

Interview with Tilly

No Middle Name in Parliament

Tilly’s address to the Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia

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