Suicide victim's family slams Govt mental health targets

The AM Show 05/12/2018

Last year 668 people took their own lives, and one of the recommendations from the Government's new mental health inquiry is to reduce our suicide rate by 20 percent by 2030.

But a Hamilton couple says this isn't good enough. Jane Stevens lost her son Nicky Stevens when the 21-year-old took his own life in 2015.

Appearing on The AM Show on Wednesday, she questioned why the Government was only recommending a 20 percent reduction in suicide targets when last year Jacinda Ardern said she wouldn't accept a rate "that's anything other than zero".

"There are some significant omissions in the report and I think this is our last chance to get this right," she told host Duncan Garner.

"So many of us, we can't bring our children and our family members back, but the only thing we can do is try and ensure that these tragedies do not continue happening and people in New Zealand get the health care they need and deserve."

Mr Stevens was under a compulsory care order at a mental health facility when he was unbelievably let out unescorted on a 15-minute cigarette break. His body was later found in the Waikato River.

His mother says the mental health system failed and "our son's dead as a consequence".

"We expected that our son would be kept safe, that he would receive a good standard of care, and that we would be listened to as his family," she told Garner.

"The system completely and utterly failed our family and we are only one of thousands of families that have been affected in that way around this country, and it is a real indictment on our mental health system."

Appearing on The AM Show Health Minister David Clark said he accepted "we're going to need to do more".

"I have to say that I'm a little bit uncomfortable with saying any level of suicide is acceptable," he told Garner.

He said changing the mental health system was a "really significant" task and "won't solve it all in our first Budget".

"The Finance Minister has been clear in his speeches already that mental health and wellbeing are a priority for this Budget," he says.

"Having set those expectations the public rightly will now know to where we spend money wisely to ensure better outcomes."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact:

  • Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354.
  • Depression Helpline (8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) - 0800 942 8787
  • Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline)

Watch the full interview with Jane Stevens and Dr David Clark above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

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