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273 mental health patients take own lives

Jim Anderton 273 mental health patients over the last four years have committed suicide while in the care of a hospital, and the annual figure appears to be climbing.230 patients, or 84% of those who died, were patients in the community under the care of community mental health services.The figures were obtained by Alliance leader Jim Anderton.

He says the high and climbing level of suicides show why the top mental health priority for an incoming government has to be implementation of the Mason Report on mental health care.Figures supplied by hospitals themselves show that, while the number of inpatient suicides has remained about the same, the number of outpatient suicides has increased in each of the last four years.

Thirteen inpatients and 72 outpatients took their own lives in 1998/99, up from a total of 38 (ten inpatients) in 1995/96.'More and more people are dying when they are supposed to be in community care,' Jim Anderton says.'These figures are a sorry indictment of the! Government's push towards deinstitutionalisation without adequate community support for patients and their families.'Community mental health services need more skilled staff and resources.

Agencies offering support in the community (many of them are voluntary) need assurances that they will be supported by the Government. Relying on cake-stalls to fund key support organisations is costing lives.'

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