Grieving mother's plea for mental health review denied by minister

Chris Briggs died of a suspected suicide just three hours after he was released from Palmerston North Hospital.
SUPPLIED

Chris Briggs died of a suspected suicide just three hours after he was released from Palmerston North Hospital.

A grieving mother's plea for an inquiry into the state of treatment for people with mental health problems has  failed to convince the health minister.

Alison Briggs' son died in a suspected suicide after he was repeatedly unable to get the help he needed.

Chris Briggs, 29, was taken to Palmerston North Hospital on February 11, but discharged after four hours – deemed not to be a suicide risk.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

He died about three hours after he was released.

But Alison Briggs' plea has fallen on deaf ears, with health minister Dr Jonathan Coleman, who says there is no need for a nationwide review of mental health services.

READ MORE:
* Man dies three hours after hospital discharges him

* Care box for people contemplating suicide
* No-one responds after man makes call to help suicidal family member

Chris Briggs had obsessive compulsive disorder, aspergers, suffered from anxiety and had bounced between doctors and psychologists, his mother said.

His discharge from hospital was just the last of a series of failures that led to her son's death.

"There needs to be an independent inquiry, because with Chris, it could have stopped way back."

Alison Briggs was trying to get him a support worker, but never got one.

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"There are just huge gaps. I feel there needs to be an independent inquiry into mental health – anything I can do to stop this happening again."

There was only so much she could do herself to care for her son, Alison Briggs said.

However, Coleman disagreed.

"I don't agree there's a need for a review. I'm focused on progressing our new mental health strategy and I will be taking a paper to Cabinet shortly."

He said the country's mental health and addiction services were on a "transformational journey".

Mental health was a "hugely complex area" that canvassed an incredibly diverse range of issues, he said.

"As is the case internationally, the incidence of mental health issues is increasing across our population."

Coleman said "new and innovative approaches" were needed.

These would complement the wide range of support and services already delivered across the country, he said.

"I believe we need to shift the focus to improving people's general wellbeing, intervening earlier to build resilience and prevent mental health issues, better utilisation of technology and increasing access to community-based services."

MidCentral District Health Board is standing by its assessment processes and has urged people to still come to its emergency department if they need help.

It said the assessment and clinical decisions were reviewed by other clinicians and were considered appropriate.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

Lifeline - 0800 543 354

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

Healthline - 0800 611 116

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.

 - Stuff

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