‘I felt unheard and unseen’

Published date12 August 2021
Publication titleSouthland Express
About two months ago she called the Southland Mental Health Emergency Team (SMHET) after trying to commit suicide — but she was still waiting for a call back from them.

With the increasing number of suicides in the region, she was worried there was not enough help for people struggling with mental health in the community.

The woman, who asked not to be named, tried to take her own life on June 21.

‘‘I was in complete desperation and helplessness. I no longer wanted to live. I was in an extremely dark and vulnerable state.

‘‘Death was the only answer for me — I felt like a burden to everyone and I felt that I was too hard to be loved by my family members and friends. Suicide was the best way out.’’

But it was a memory of her children which brought a flash of hope and strength to look for help, she said, so she called SMHET at Southland Hospital and spoke with a staff member.

She explained the whole situation and told her she had tried to take her own life. However, she felt the staff member ‘‘downplayed’’ the situation.

The staff member then told her she was on a callout in Bluff but would call her back in about an hour.

Instead of a phonecall, the woman was visited by two police officers.

She felt shocked and panicked thinking something had happened to one of her family members but the officers explained they were there for a ‘‘well-being check’’.

‘‘I had a chat with them about what had happened and they were very casual about it all. They seemed disinterested and yet again I felt unheard and unseen.

‘‘The police were busy looking around my house, saying what a nice home that I had and that I looked fine. I explained that I may look fine, but my head was in a very dark place.’’

She said the conversation took about 15 minutes and they left — ‘‘that was all’’.

The woman thought SMHET would still phone her back or at least check on her but she did not hear anything from them. She has since approached the SMHET several times to raise her concerns but she still felt unheard.

‘‘I have battled with depression and I have reached out for help a few times over the years and I have been let down over and over again. Just like many other people have.

‘‘This is disgusting. Our suicide stats [in Southland] are at an all-time high. And you reach for help and get pushed away.’’

Southern District Health Board’s (SDHB) Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability general manager Louise Travers said she could not comment on individual patients for reasons of...

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