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National Families Forum on Suicide & Mental Health issues

National Families Forum on Suicide & Mental Health issues

Over 100 people with family and whanau connections to suicide victims are attending a one-day forum in Hamilton next week on 'Hearing the voice of families' in cases where suicide and mental illness are issues.

The Forum has been called and hosted on the 22nd September by the family of Nicky Stevens, 21, who drowned in the Waikato River in March this year, after being let out unescorted from Waikato DHB's Henry Bennett Centre while on 'suicide watch'.

Central to the concerns about Nicky Steven's death were the repeated warnings by his family to DHB management and clinicians about the suicide risk he faced, and the need for close supervision while he was unwell.

The 'Breaking the Silence – Hearing the Families' Forum is being held at the Hamilton City Council Reception Lounge from 9am-5pm. Participants are attending from around New Zealand.

Forum organiser and Nicky's mother, Jane Stevens, said "We've been overwhelmed by response to the Forum – people clearly want change to the mental health system."

"Since Nicky's death, hundreds of people from around the country have contacted our family saying their concerns for the health and treatment of their loved ones were similarly ignored by health authorities."

"We don't want families in this situation to keep having to face alone the battles that follow tragedies like this."

"Families of people facing mental illness are usually the most important people in the lives of those suffering, and know best what will help them, yet are too often ignored or even deliberately shut out of care decisions being made about our family members."

"In Nicky's case, our family was not even told he had been initially taken to Waikato Hospital with serious self-inflicted injuries requiring urgent surgery, and were excluded from a review of his treatment immediately prior to this."

"Other families have been banned by Coroners and courts from speaking out about the details of their family members' cases"

"This story is all too common, and we want to join together to help break that 'cone of silence', and invite ourselves, as affected families, into the decision-making forums."

"By joining together as we are doing next week, our strength and voice will be greater."

Ms Stevens said that it was "more than ironic" that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists was holding its annual Conference in the same city also next week.

"Some of the organisers and key speakers at that Conference were responsible for the treatment of Nicky before he died and when he disappeared from the Henry Bennett Centre."

"They would learn more from coming to our Forum and listening to the families than they will from their self-congratulation session over the River!"

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