13 Dec 2014

Call for mental health care boost

7:13 am on 13 December 2014

A schizophrenic man who killed his friend because he thought he was a demon has sparked calls to put families back at the centre of mental health care.

Byron Armstrong was on Wednesday found not guilty by reason of insanity of murdering his friend and video game partner, Henry Pan, in Auckland last year.

His family had pleaded with his psych team before the killing to help him but they were not listened to properly.

Mr Armstrong's parents had taken an active interest in his wellbeing.

His lawyer, Ron Mansfield said they were responsible people who worried about him and did all they could to support him.

It was when his behaviour took a turn for the worse that his parents turned to the mental health team at Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB).

"They were reporting an escalation in concerning behaviour from him to the health board ... for them, it was causing them concern," Mr Mansfield said.

The DHB did not act on the family's concerns and have now apologised, saying Mr Pan might still be alive if they had.

Graeme Moyle's brother was killed and set on fire in 2007 by someone he knew who had a severe mental illness.

Mr Moyle, who works with the Sensible Sentencing Trust, said the latest apology from the DHB rang hollow.

He said he had heard time and time again from families involved in homicides or suicides who tried to make their voices heard but were turned away.

Mr Moyle wanted the Government to start collating data on such cases so that it could understand the bigger picture and could create a nation-wide response.

He said currently they were dealt with by individual DHBs and so not enough was being learnt.

An Auckland psychiatrist, David Codyre, working mainly in primary care said there should be a greater focus on mental health at the GP level.

Mr Codyre said this would work better for patients and their families.

"If you actually get into primary care, work closely with GPs, get to know them ... trust in that relationship builds up."

The Counties Manukau DHB said working with mental health patients was very challenging but it accepted it made serious mistakes in this case.

It said it had changed its procedures to help ensure families were heard better in the future.