Without doubt, 2008 was the worst year Schapelle had endured so far in prison. Her mental health became a serious concern to herself, her family and her friends, and the media zeroed in on it as well, as they had with every minuscule thing about her life in a foreign jail. Sadly, the next handful of years were no better.
Mercedes blamed her sister’s deteriorating mental condition largely on the unrelenting media attention – which continued to be truly constant, significant coverage – and how the reports were peppered with glaring inaccuracies about Schapelle and her family.
But it was also the year that her father Michael passed away from cancer in January and then, a few months later, her final appeal failed. I have no doubt those two events crushed Schapelle as she began contemplating many more years in prison, which would have been devastating.
This prospect added to her fragility over the next few years. The Kerobokan governor in 2008, Ilham Djaya, had come up with a plan for Schapelle to gain a ‘higher rank’ of Pemuka in the prison structure, which could have meant an earlier release within five or six years. I featured this in the final chapter of the first edition of this book, as I had nothing else positive to add at that time. But that hope was dashed on the rocks when he was transferred.
So with all that happening in one tumultuous period, Schapelle’s condition continued to deteriorate and she was placed on strong medication, including anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs for her mental state and these began to affect her physically as well. The whole situation was to consume her and her family over the next few years, Ros told me on a number of occasions.
Schapelle had times where she was like a zombie, sitting staring into space without saying a word. In other periods she would be child-like, clutching toys while still staring into space, and then again at times she would be her normal self. Fortunately, a great deal of this behaviour was kept out of the media at the time, but it shook the rock solid duo of Ros and Merc to their very core.
While media did cover some of these times and issues, there were some outlets claiming she was faking her mental health problems, but a professional smashed those allegations as pure beat-up rubbish. Glimpses of that disturbing time have since emerged and they picture a very troubled Schapelle talking grimly and frequently about her father’s death and about contemplating suicide.
She would sit in the visitors’ area, rocking from side to side, telling her now less frequent visitors about how ugly she had become – a reaction I believe came largely from the constant media attention. One visitor said Schapelle had described herself as stupid and that she was being subjected to bullying from other prisoners and guards, together with taunts such as ‘white monkey’.