Suicidal patients wait two weeks for mental health support

Mental Health Consumer Advocacy Service advocate Paula Taylor helps suicidal people call the crisis team.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Mental Health Consumer Advocacy Service advocate Paula Taylor helps suicidal people call the crisis team.

People with suicidal thoughts who contact crisis services are waiting two weeks for psychological assessment in Marlborough.

But there is no shortage of crisis staff workers and community mental health staff are keeping up with demand, the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board says.

Others who work in mental health say a two-week wait for assessment is not good enough.

Mental Health Consumer Advocacy Service advocate Paula Taylor said when people came in with suicidal thoughts, she sat with them while they called the crisis team, but they were often disappointed with the response.

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"When people are at that crisis point they are usually unsettled and elevated anyway, so when they learn nobody can see them straight away they feel quite let down," Taylor said.

Counsellor Vienna Cassidy says suicidal people can wait up to two weeks to be assessed by mental health services because ...
RICKY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Counsellor Vienna Cassidy says suicidal people can wait up to two weeks to be assessed by mental health services because there aren't enough staff. (File photo)

"They think people are going to come running like an ambulance service does, but it doesn't work like that because we don't have the resources in Marlborough."

Board mental health, addictions and disability support services general manager Jane Kinsey said all calls to crisis services were assessed for urgency within four hours.

"If their need is indeed a crisis then we have access to the emergency department, police and call-out mental health staff. Non-urgent cases, assessed during the triage process, take a different pathway."

People who called the adult crisis team and assessed as non-urgent were seen within two to five weeks, she said.

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The crisis team saw 322 people face-to-face in the year to April.

Youth assessed as non-urgent were seen by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services within three weeks 57 per cent of the time, Kinsey said.

The service saw 105 people in the year to April, some of them more than once.

Last year 43 people aged under 25 went to the Wairau Hospital emergency department for suicidal thoughts or self-harm, board figures showed.

Of those, four were admitted to hospital and five others were admitted to the mental health unit in Nelson. There was no inpatient unit in Marlborough.

Nineteen people were either already being seen by or were referred to mental health services.

Blenheim-based counsellor Vienna Cassidy said mental health workers were doing the best they could "which sometimes isn't good enough" because there was not enough people "on the ground".

"When you go to the hospital for self-harm or an overdose, they treat you and they send you home again because there's not enough staff to assess you right away," Cassidy said.

"They could have to wait two weeks for psychological assessment."

Kinsey said staff were meeting demand for crisis calls. 

"It is important people know this, so that they are not deterred from accessing our services."

There were four vacant positions in April, but two crisis workers started work this month and another would start on Monday. A crisis case management position was still vacant.

The mental health and addictions service planned to improve pathways for immediate response and intense support, Kinsey said.

Cassidy was setting up a group for people affected by suicide - the Grief Through Suicide Support Group - and urged people to reach out by emailing 4evacheerful2@gmail.com or veronica@gmail.com, or by calling 022 1884 796.

Support in Marlborough

Witherlea Community Team - 24-hour crisis and mental health service - 03 520 9907 or after hours 03 520 9999 and ask for the on-call crisis staff

Te Piki Oranga - community mental health services for Maori - 03 543 7016

Older Persons' Mental Health Community Team - 03 520 999

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service - for serious mental health disorders up to age 18 - 03 520 9905 or the crisis service 03 520 999 and ask for on-call CAMHS staff 

Other support 

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Youthline 0800 376 633

Kidsline 0800 543 754 (weekdays 4-6 pm)

What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight 7 days, for young people aged 5 to 18)

Depression Helpline 0800 111 757

Samaritans 0800 826 666

Healthline 0800 611 116

The Lowdown thelowdown.org.nz or freetext 5626

The Depression at depression.org.nz 

 - The Marlborough Express

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