A Christchurch mother fighting to save her daughter from suicide has made a desperate plea for help, claiming she has been failed by the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB).
The mum approached 1 NEWS after her 20-year-old daughter was admitted to the mental health wing at Christchurch’s Hillmorton Hospital last week, following two suicide attempts in a five-day period.
She says the young woman was diagnosed as a “chronic high risk” but was discharged soon afterwards, with very limited follow-up support, leaving her worried for her daughter’s life. 1 NEWS has agreed to protect both of their identities.
“I feel like I've exhausted every avenue to get help for my daughter, I really do,” she says. “As her mum, no one wants to see their daughter die.
“To me, they should call her each day because, this was Thursday, and she got released, the case manager didn't make contact until Monday. That's three days with no crisis plan, over the weekend, no crisis plan, and no phone calls to check in on her.”
The mother says her daughter has been admitted to hospitals several times over self-harm, including one incident which involved an 11-day admission to intensive care in June.
But she says despite the high risk, the health board's been slow to help, leaving her to repeatedly call in asking for checks and other assistance.
The emergency department had twice refused to treat the young woman, the mum says, deeming her a non-imminent risk.
After one particularly worrying round of text messages, the mother says, she called the DHB to ask them to visit her home but was denied.
“I thought my daughter was dead, was gonna die, I rang crisis, who referred me to her case manager and I said, ‘This is a crisis, this is a crisis, if you don't think this is a crisis, who are you going to call?” she says.
Mental health campaigners like Corinda Taylor, of the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, say it’s the same situation around the country.
“This is too common, and we need to have better support in place for people. Either you are not suicidal enough, according to services, or they go, 'There are no beds,'” she says.
“I hear this story quite often, and it is quite distressing to me personally to hear that, because I've had a personal tragedy with my own son that also asked for help with emergency services.”
Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson says around 20,000 people attempt to take their life in New Zealand every year, but many are able to get through, with a much smaller number losing their lives.
“We need to do much better, and there is absolutely no doubt that the support that is available is really patchy,” he says.
“It depends on what time of the week, where in the country, how hard you push, what time of the day or night you might try to access services and that's just not good enough. But if you do keep supporting people, you do keep pushing for that professional support, there is support available.”
The CDHB wouldn't comment on this individual case but in a statement said the type of care provided to individual consumers can vary greatly, depending on the diagnosed condition, and all treatment was “evidence based” and “in line with international best practice”.
Barbara Wilson, the acting general manager of mental health, went on to admit the DHB is facing very high demand.
“We acknowledge the unique pressures the Canterbury community and our staff have been under in recent years and these pressures are proving challenging to manage in the longer term,” she says.
“We continue to confront the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the past nine years on the people of Canterbury.”
She says the number of adult community cases seen by the DHB had increased by 69 per cent in the last nine years, while the number of child and youth cases had increased by 146 per cent. The number of mental health crisis assessments at the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department had increased by 196 per cent over a seven-year period.
But pressure is also an everyday reality for this Christchurch mother, who says the DHB has neglected her daughter when she needed help most. She continues to ask for regular checks and follow-up support, beyond the sessions offered at their facility.
“I know it's all about funding, I know, but it shouldn't be. These are people's lives you're talking about - my daughter's life and a whole lot of other people's lives,” she says.
Desperate families are left asking – what price is a life?
Do you have a story to tell about mental health services in New Zealand? Contact 1 NEWS reporter Thomas Mead - Thomas.Mead@tvnz.co.nz