Psychiatrist coming to reduce pressure

Police callouts to suicide attempts are on the rise, and a psychiatrist is moving to a permanent position in Queenstown to help ease growing pressures on mental health services.

Police figures reveal February was the busiest month for attempted or threatened suicide callouts in the Queenstown Lakes District since June 2015.

There were 17 in February, an average of about four per week.

There were 46 calls in total between January and April.

Southern DHB mental health, addictions and intellectual disability manager Brad Strong said a psychiatrist would soon be based in the resort.

"All mental health and addiction services across the Southern area and nationally are experiencing increasing numbers of people needing to access services, and as the population in the Central Lakes area continues to grow, this demand is increasing further."

Mr Strong said the health board was boosting its network of staff at hospitals and in the community who could provide help.

The DHB specialist services provide a locally based crisis after-hours response up to midnight in Queenstown. Cover between midnight and 8.30am is provided by the Southland Mental Health Emergency Team, based in Invercargill.

Mr Strong said most requests were responded to within two hours, which was "comparable" with Dunedin and Invercargill.

Specialist and crisis services were also moving to using "virtual telehealth technology" as a way of providing additional support, enabling assessments to be undertaken without the need to travel to Dunedin or Invercargill, he said.

No Queenstown police officers were available to discuss the figures but a written statement attributed to Senior Sergeant John Fookes said it was not definitively known what was behind the rise.

"The rise in the numbers of threatening suicide and self-harm incidents is an international phenomenon with many theories as to why this may be. It is a very complicated social issue with no easy answer."

Queenstown police are still under investigation over two complaints about their handling of cases with links to suicide and mental health.

The parents of Meika-Celine Walker Pollock (19) complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority last year, alleging police victimised their daughter for some years.

The teen was due in court on August 21, but never turned up. The next day she was found dead in a car parked by Arrowtown's Chinese settlement, after a suspected suicide.

Another complaint was laid in October, after a Queenstown man alleged police treated him like a criminal following a suicide attempt.

Area Commander Olaf Jensen had previously declined to comment on the specifics of the cases, as they were before the IPCA. But he said at the time "police will always have a role to play when someone is under significant mental distress, especially when someone threatens to harm themselves or others".

The IPCA this week confirmed investigations into both complaints were still ongoing.

Another primary mental health service for young people, Thrive!, was launched in the Central Lakes area in January.

Need help?

Healthline: 0800 611-116
Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543-354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans: 0800 726-666
Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787-797
General mental health inquiries: 0800 443-366
Depression Helpline: 0800 111-757
Youthline: 0800 376-633, txt 234 or
What’s Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1pm- 11pm): 0800 942-8787
Kidsline (aimed at children up to age 14; 4pm-6pm weekdays): 0800 54-37-54 (0800 kidsline) 


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