Son failed by mental health service, mother says

Rosann Connolly-George is concerned for her son who has fallen through  gaps in the health system...
Rosann Connolly-George is concerned for her son who has fallen through gaps in the health system. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A Dunedin woman has slammed the city’s mental health and addiction services for "severely failing" her mentally ill son.

Rosann Connolly-George said systemic changes were needed as there was a "lack of assistance" for mentally ill people, especially if their conditions were related to drug addictions.

She was "constantly stressed" from her struggles finding help for her 26-year-old son who has battled with addictions to drugs such as methamphetamine and had severe mental health issues, she said.

"He’s been severely failed because on more than one occasion when he needed help he was turned away from psychiatric services.

"When he reached out after very dire straits and a suicide attempt, no-one was there to help."

Last year, he was turned away from voluntary admission to Wakari Hospital’s Ward 9B acute secure inpatient unit, she said.

Mrs Connolly-George said she was told this was because those services differentiated between drug and mental health problems.

"There’s such a divide. There needs to be far more cohesiveness between addiction and mental health services."

Mrs Connolly-George said she eventually convinced the ward to accept her son.

"I’m a supportive parent, but what about those who haven’t got that?"

During an admission late last year, he was allowed a 30-minute unescorted recess and was found several kilometres away by one of Mrs Connolly’s friends minutes before he was due to return, she said.

"When he was in 9B he was failed because they didn’t keep tabs on where he was."

When he was released after several days, he was still "critically unwell", she said.

"It’s an attitude of ‘he’s done his time now."

Last month, the Government announced details of its Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.Mrs Connolly-George said this made her "hopeful".

"I’m impressed that someone has actually put their hand up in Government and said ‘We’ve got a problem’.

"They really need to talk to people like us, people who are living on the outside feeling the struggles.

"He’s worth saving and he’s doing amazingly this month, but it’s a week-to-week thing."

Southern District Health Board mental health addictions and intellectual disability medical director Dr Brad Strong said the board acknowledged the challenges Mrs Connolly-George faced and empathised with her situation.

"Southern DHB aims to provide the best possible care for all of its patients and takes any concerns raised by patients and/or their families very seriously.

"Unfortunately, we cannot comment on individual patients’ care for privacy reasons."

There were a range of inpatient and community based services available for those experiencing mental health and addiction challenges, he said.

"We would ask Mrs Connolly-George to contact us directly to discuss her concerns with us."


Need help?

Healthline: 0800 611-116

Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543-354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828-865

Samaritans: 0800 726-666

General mental health inquiries: 0800 443 366

Depression Helpline: 0800 111-757

Youthline: 0800 376-633, txt 234 or

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