Blenheim woman Amy Elston started suicide support group Ben’s Bows last year after her son died in 2014. She tells reporter Jennifer Eder how more is needed in Marlborough as suicide rates climb.
A woman who runs a suicide support group says Marlborough should start a mental health retreat of its own, as a respite centre in Taranaki opens.
Blenheim woman Amy Elston has already put her name on the waiting list to stay at the Taranaki Retreat later this year, still struggling with her son Ben’s death in 2014.
The retreat, funded by Taranaki man Jamie Allen, opened in March with a goal of preventing suicide by giving people a place to escape and heal.
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Elston wanted to create a similar retreat for Marlborough, having seen firsthand how people in the region were struggling with severe depression through her suicide support group.
She started the group, Ben’s Bows, last year by launching a Facebook page and a blog. The group was named after the yellow ribbons used for suicide prevention campaigns.
“It’s just for people who are down, depressed, anyone in the aftermath of suicide, so they can reach out. It’s a terrible place to be, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever struggled with,” Elston said.
She was shocked by how many young people were having suicidal thoughts, she said.
Figures from the Chief Coroner showed there were 23 cases of suicide and suspected suicide in the Nelson Marlborough region in the year to June 2016 – the joint highest since records began in 2007.
Fourteen were men, and nine were women. Three of the cases were teenagers, while 15 were people aged between 44 and 64.
Elston urged anyone in Marlborough who could contribute to a retreat to get in touch.
“I think the South Island needs a retreat, in the Blenheim area where suicide is a big problem. We could do it. There are funds out there. We can help each other. It’s just a matter of putting those people [who want to help] together. Being able to go somewhere with people who understand and where you don’t have to worry about anything, it’s very healing.
“It’s when people don’t understand what you’re going through, that’s when suicide happens.”
Marlborough area commander Inspector Simon Feltham said his team was called to someone “self-harming” about once every two days.
Marlborough police had 194 callouts to suicide attempts last year, up from 114 in 2013 and 88 in 2010.
They also went to a further 109 callouts related to mental health last year, up from 59 in 2010.
“We work closely with the Mental Health Team based at Wairau Hospital in dealing with these incidents and would welcome any further support to this area,” Feltham said.
The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board said 45 people presented at the Wairau Hospital emergency department, in Blenheim, with suicidal thoughts or intent in the year to February 28.
In the same period, 135 people contacted the Witherlea Crisis Team with suicidal thoughts or behaviour.
Those people were either admitted to Witherlea House, received treatment or made a follow-up appointment.
Board mental health, addictions and disability support services manager Jane Kinsey said it was critically important people who were feeling suicidal were clinically assessed so they could be referred for treatment.
“In some cases, this could mean admission to an inpatient unit.”
There was “a wide range” of clinical mental health services and community support services for people severely depressed or suicidal in Marlborough, Kinsey said.
There was already a “home away from home” available in the form of Hapai Te Ora in Blenheim, a four-bedroom house staffed 24 hours a day by the Witherlea adult mental health team, Kinsey said.
People had to be referred to the service by the mental health team.
They could also join the CARE Marlborough peer-led day programme, an informal group where people shared common experiences, she said.
“Any door is the right door for people who are feeling suicidal,” Kinsey said.
“GPs can access secondary specialist services very quickly, as can the [Primary Health Organisation] in addition to their counselling and brief intervention services.”
Support for suicidal people in Marlborough
Witherlea Community Team – 24-hour crisis and mental health service
Te Piki Oranga – community mental health services for Maori
Hapai te Ora – house staffed 24-hours for support
Older Persons’ Mental Health Community Team – specialist services at Wairau Hospital
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service – for serious mental health disorders up to age 18 with a crisis service available
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Youthline 0800 376 633
Kidsline 0800 543 754 (weekdays 4-6 pm)
What’s Up 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight 7 days, for young people aged 5 to 18)
Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
Samaritans 0800 826 666
Healthline 0800 611 116
The Lowdown thelowdown.org.nz or freetext 5626
The Depression at depression.org.nz