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Inadequate Mental Health Services Under Fire

Inadequate Mental Health Services Under Fire

March 24 2016

Failures in New Zealand’s mental health services are to blame for a large number of preventable deaths according an independent victim advocate.

Graeme Moyle who advocates for victims of mentally ill offenders is critical of the blasé way mental health patients are turned away from specialist services when they are in crisis.

“Time and time again desperate patients and their families seek out help only to be ignored and treated with contempt”, Mr Moyle said.

“Many of these cases end in tragedy, with patients either taking their own life or someone else’s”.

The latest case drawing attention to these deficiencies culminated this week with the acquittal of a Wellington woman of murder by reason of insanity.
The woman, who stabbed and killed a 67-year-old man had a long history of mental illness and had stopped taking her anti-psychotic medication in the months preceding the killing.

The 26 year olds family saw her condition deteriorating and took her first to her GP, whom she assaulted.

She was then taken to Wellington Hospital, where mental health crisis team members saw her and tried to persuade her to take the anti-psychotic medication. It was believed she took the medication and was discharged.

Blood samples taken from woman following the murder showed no trace of the drug.

“Here we have a severely mentally ill woman, with her family, turning up to a mental health crisis team in desperation” Moyle said.

“She was unable to think rationally, was in a psychotic state and these professionals tried to persuade her to take medication which she had already demonstrated she was averse to doing”.

“The woman had been hearing voices telling her to do things, and she thought people wanted to harm her and these trained clinicians, psychiatric professionals sent her home!”.

“This was always going to end in tragedy” Mr Moyle said.
At the time of the murder a police spokesperson said it was an isolated incident.

“That is nonsense” said Moyle, “it’s happening regularly all over the country, the only surprise is that there isn’t more loss of life”.

“In this incident alone there were five other victims”.

“Patients turning up to mental health crisis teams should be treated like any other patient turning up to an emergency department” Moyle said.

“They should not only be admitted until they have recovered, they should be treated with dignity and respect, not regurgitated into the community to spiral out of control with possible tragic consequences”.

An investigation is now under way into how the Capital and Coast District Health Board mental health service handled the case.


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