6 Apr 2018

Nurse not told of suicidal woman's access to drugs

11:40 am on 6 April 2018

Police did not pass on to mental health nurses critical information about a suicidal woman's access to drugs, a coroner was told yesterday.

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Karen Day's former partner said he told the police that she had access to a large amount of different drugs. Photo: 123RF

Karen Michelle Day died in October 2016 due to a suspected drug overdose and her inquest finished in the Whakatāne District Court yesterday.

Just a few days before she was admitted into hospital she had been stopped by police in Whakatāne, after calling a helpline while driving, saying she upset with her life then hanging up.

A mental health nurse assessed her and urged police to delay charging her.

Instead, they handed the summons to a family member and sent Ms Day home.

Barry Sykes, Ms Day's former partner of 25 years, said he told police that she had access to a large amount of different medication.

The registered nurse who assessed Ms Day and made the call to release her back to family told the inquest she wasn't informed of that.

She said if she had been, it could have changed her decision.

Mr Sykes said she should have been told by police.

"I feel that, that information was really important and should have gone through to the nurse," he said.

"[If it did] possibly we wouldn't be here today, there would have been an intervention [and] Karen would have gone to the hospital."

Once home, Ms Day was seen by a second nurse several hours later and another follow-up meeting was scheduled for the following day.

But that consultation didn't happen and the 59-year-old was admitted into hospital that afternoon.

She died 12 days later.

Edward Sykes, Ms Day's son, said his mother's behaviour in the police chase was completely out of character for her and he had never seen her in such a bad state.

"She looked emotionally, mentally, physically just absolutely broken in every way to me and that was rock bottom for her right there," he said.

He said while his mother had been struggling in the two months before her death, he believed her behaviour was extremely serious and she intended to take her own life.

But Mr Sykes said this information wasn't asked for by the nurse who assessed her and who allowed her to go back home.

He said he trusted her judgement.

"From my point of view, they're the professionals within that area ... of mental health so I was definitely trusting in them that they would know the correct actions to take," he said.

Frances Maia, Ms Day's daughter, said she was scared about bringing her mother home and thought she should have gone to hospital.

"She's just done all of this stuff [led police on a chase and sent suicidal texts] and we've just been hysterically crying about her doing that and then all of a sudden, it's like no she's ok to go home."

But the nurse said the family could have told her about their concerns and she made the best plan of action she could at the time.

Coroner Michael Robb said he would now take time to complete his findings before releasing them at a later date.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.