Warnings on suicidal teenager ignored

A mother has described her disbelief that her teenage daughter was thought well enough to leave hospital after taking a second drug overdose in four days.

Rachel Mackley, 17, died after her third overdose six days later.

She had been prescribed two months' worth of anti-depressants and is believed to have collected the pills on September 14, 2010.

She took 10 tablets that day, about 40 on September 17, and finally about 130 on September 23. She died of complications in Hutt Hospital on September 30.

Rachel, of Upper Hutt, had a history of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and was anorexic. She had learning difficulties and had been bullied.

At an inquest yesterday into her death, her mother, Joanne Mackley, said that, after the first overdose, Rachel left the hospital before being assessed, and walked to a local mall in her pyjamas.

After the second overdose, she was seen by two mental health crisis assessment team members who thought she was a low suicide risk.

"After the second overdose ... I could not believe that they didn't keep her in," Mackley said.

"I felt she needed to have secure hospitalisation.

"I felt like I was sinking and where was the help, I was trying."

A counsellor at Heretaunga College was told Rachel was planning a third overdose and tried to contact health authorities and her mother.

Mackley hid the pills when she got the message, but Rachel found them.

Mackley and her ex-husband, Ken, both criticised the number of pills that had been prescribed to their daughter. Mackley also acknowledged she should not have left the tablets at home.

Both parents said the school and others did not keep them informed about their daughter. She lived with her mother and disabled sister, and saw her father regularly.

Rachel told different people different things, coroner Garry Evans was told.

After his daughter's death, Ken Mackley learned about the school counsellor's concerns and that Child, Youth and Family (CYF) had been involved with Rachel in 2009 when she was 16.

CYF supervisor Jan Fisher said it had now strengthened its approach in dealing with fathers.

Rachel had refused to co-operate with CYF. Joanne Mackley was spoken to by phone, while Ken Mackley was not contacted at all. CYF closed the file on Rachel after seven weeks.

Fisher agreed CYF should have spoken to the school again and to both parents, and checked that a referral to an adolescent mental health service had been successful. Rachel had not kept two earlier appointments with the service.

Hutt Valley District Health Board and the Social Development Ministry are both represented by lawyers at the inquest, which continues today.

Joanne Mackley was impressed with the care Rachel received at the Central Regional Eating Disorder Services shortly before her death, but both she and school counsellor Nick Dye criticised a person who answered the phone for the service.

Dye said he rang around on September 22 trying to alert those involved with Rachel that she planned another overdose.

He said the receptionist was obstructive to the point of rudeness.

He was surprised the mental health crisis team did not take action.


Below is a list of some of the services available which offer support, information and help.

All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.

- Lifeline - 0800 543 354

- Depression Helpline (8am to midnight) - 0800 111 757

- Healthline - 0800 611 116

- Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) - 0800 54 37 54 (0800 KIDSLINE)

- Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 (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; noon to midnight) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

- Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand - www.spinz.org.nz

- Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

- What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1pm to 11pm) - 0800 942 8787


www.thelowdown.co.nz - visit the website, email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between noon and midnight)

The Dominion Post