3 Nov 2015

DHB tells desperate father to call police

6:08 pm on 3 November 2015

A father seeking help from his local health board for his autistic daughter while she was suffering a psychotic breakdown was told to call the police, he says.

Mark and Sally Witchalls

Mark and Sally Witchalls Photo: Supplied

Mark Witchalls' now 20-year-old daughter, Emily, has non-verbal autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, along with other health issues.

He has spoken out after it emerged the police are dealing with more than 100 mentally ill people every day - and they say the callouts are taking longer to resolve than they used to.

The latest police annual report shows officers are dealing with three times as many people suffering from mental distress, and eight times as many people who are suicidal, as they were in the late 1990s.

This year alone police have handled 4300 repeat mental health calls and tens of thousands more one-off calls.

Mr Witchalls told Checkpoint his daughter came home from school one day and had a bad psychotic episode.

He called the Hawke's Bay District Health Board and was put through to their crisis management team but was surprised by their response.

"We were looking for some reassurance or some sort of advice as to how to calm Emily down, possibly somebody coming out and giving us some sort of medication that would calm her down," he said.

"Their advice to us was 'well if you feel under threat, call the police'. That was it. Nothing else."

Mr Witchalls said he was terrified by the episode and did not know how to handle it himself.