7 Aug 2018

'Families are not supported at all'

7:58 am on 7 August 2018

Family members who have lost relatives to suicide say they are desperate for change, the inquest system needs an overhaul, and mental health services need drastic improvements.

Sad woman hugging her husband

Photo: 123RF

A government mental health inquiry - a once-in-a-generation look at the entire system - was established in January and its panel has heard a raft of submissions

Yesterday, bereaved whānau met panellists in Auckland.

Jane Stevens lost her son Nicky in 2015.

At the time of his death, he was being treated in a mental health unit under Waikato District Health Board.

The inquest wrapped up last month in Hamilton, and Coroner Wallace Bain reserved his decision.

But Ms Stevens said one of the major changes she would like to see is more help during an inquest.

She said inquests are confronting, they can make families feel isolated and traumatised, and they are costly.

"We went into the coronial inquiry thinking that it was about finding the truth. Everybody except the families could afford to employ expensive lawyers. Families are not supported at all."

Ms Stevens said some families have either had to sell their house or consider selling to help pay inquest costs.

Maria Dillon's son Harry died in November 2013 in Christchurch.

She said Harry was misdiagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and his mother believed her son's depression wasn't taken seriously.

"I just believe that we can do better. I shouldn't have lost my son, and if another Harry is admitted to the hospital, his family should know that that child is going to come out the other end, and, you know, not end up in a hospital going into ICU."

The Coroner ruled that his death was self inflicted.

Ms Dillon said she thinks suicide and mental health should be discussed more in the public realm to help other families.

"Even just being able to label a death as suicide is problematic. But for me, just allowing free conversation in the media ... if I'm allowed to tell my story about how my son died, and how much I love my son, then in some ways that can support somebody else."

Erin Meehan's son died four years ago while he was in his 20s.

She said there needs to be more around the clock care available outside hospital, as she said it was often after-hours when someone may feel at their worst.

She's calling for what she described as public respite houses, where those who are feeling vulnerable can drop in and spend a few nights there.

"Just the trauma and the PTSD and everything else that goes with it. It's on-going, it's relentless, there's never a relief for many people.

"So it really just needs to be like a drop-in centre where people could go for one night or maybe up to three."

The Mental Health Inquiry will present its report to the government on 31 October.

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 or text HELP to 4357

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.

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