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Support for family of dead woman inadequate – principal

The mother of one of four victims in a suspected suicide cluster in Ōtaki has spoken of her desperate wait to get proper help.

She is mourning her daughter who was in her early 20s and spoke to Ōtaki College principal Andy Fraser yesterday.

She gave Mr Fraser permission to speak to RNZ and yesterday told him that four weeks on from the passing of her daughter, she has received no support.

"She said, 'Then I told a mental health worker I knew I had not got any, and I got a phone call. But it was so cheery'.

Mr Fraser also said she was so taken aback by the cheeriness of the voice she had to put the phone down.

The husband of the dead woman and her siblings did not know what to do, he said.

The mother had to return to work after three days bereavement leave.

Earlier, the Mid-Central District Health Board had said it had responded appropriately to the suspected suicides.

The first was of a college boy in mid-September.

"I do understand that rapid action was taken," the DHB's mental health and addictions operations executive Dr Vanessa Caldwell said.

"I've also been advised that the agency who is supporting the [boy's] family has been in contact with them and particularly followed up recently."

The DHB had followed up with Victim Support to make sure it was engaged with the family, Dr Caldwell said.

When RNZ sought to clarify this, and Mr Fraser checked with the family, they told him Victim Support was there the day the boy died, activated as usual by the police.

The next time the agency called them was last weekend, a month and a half later, and only after the first media report last Saturday on Newshub, in which the DHB response was criticised.

The family told him they had wanted more support during this long gap, but did not know who to ask, Mr Fraser said.

"As far as they were concerned, they simply thought that it was their time now to battle through this."

A good system would not have left them alone, he said.

The DHB said the Ministry of Education trauma team "was activated immediately".

But Mr Fraser said that was because he activated it, not the DHB.

"They need to come to the party and just be honest about the fact that their responses ... have not been as good as they should be, and they need to take a strong look at what they do."

He said health agencies in many ways did "amazing jobs" but the Ōtaki response needed a review.

"This is not about blame but about getting really good systems in place."

Early on Friday the college heard from the DHB that it would now be providing a counsellor from Monday to Fridays at the KYS youth service in Matangi Street.

It will also provide a psychologist next year to work with school students and other young people.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

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

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.


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