I had the misfortune to read an article in our local Guardian broadsheet. Mid Central Health were claiming they were making inroads in inpatient and outpatient care in Mental Health, in particular dealing with clients presenting with suicide symptoms. I find their article very prophetic and far reaching and as I am not at the coal face any more I have no reason to doubt their claims.
But I do challenge their claims based on one incident that I feel fell in their reporting/recording window. Only 3 years ago a fellow mental health client (who I shall name as John) was living with me in supported accommodation here in Palmerston North. Now John was in his early 40's, had had a long suffering mental illness, was not of a sound mind, and was suicidal. On two separate occasions John was cut down from the carport roof trying to hang himself. On both occasions the Police were informed and duly showed up. On both occasions he was taken to Ward 21 for assessment and on both occasions was dropped off at our home after a few hours. John was still suicidal, John was still not in a good space mentally speaking and John unfortunately was a heavy burden on the rest of the house (we were always out checking the carport). Now Ward 21 staff may have been in the right by not admitting him, but as far as we were concerned he was a liability to himself and to others and needed treatment.
Soon after these attempts John got his wish and moved into a long term respite care facility near Feilding. A few weeks after being there he lay down in front of a goods train and that was the end of it. But is it? How much of a chance was John given to have care and proper monitoring if he had been on the Ward for a few weeks getting expert care and expert treatment? How many years would John have lived if someone had said "John, we are here to help you"?
Is John responsible for his death or does the burden of responsibility fall on the staff at Mid Central DHB who assessed him and deemed him fit to live in society free of risk? The question may never be answered but I do know should I have presented as a suicide attempt I'd really appreciate that services took notice and ceded intervention at that time. For me, for my family and for my friends. After all is that not what the service is about?
May this be a warning to Mid Central Health Mental Health and assessors. If someone is admitted for assessment having partially carried out a suicide, admit them, and treat them. They probably might thank you for doing so. In John's case, he can't.