A Queenstowner who attempted suicide last Thursday night claims local police treated him like a criminal.
The 32-year-old, whom Mountain Scene’s agreed not to name, says after the attempt he called a Lifeline counsellor, who then got the police to “check” on him.
He claims about five police, including two sergeants, stormed his home, brutally manhandled and handcuffed him, then turned away St John paramedics who’d been late arriving after getting lost.
“I should have been medically assessed straight away,” he says.
Instead, he says the cops took him to the police station cells, stripped him, put him in a safety gown, and denied him food, water, bedding and his usual medication.
“It was extremely intimidating.
“I agree there was the potential that I was being somewhat aggressive, but I was distressed – I already suffer from depression and anxiety.”
After about two-and-a-half hours, the man says police took him to Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital, where he was medically assessed by an emergency department doctor.
He claims police originally let him stay at LDH, under supervision, but changed their minds, dragged him away and brought him back to their cells.
About 8.30am, four hours later, he says an Invercargill-based mental health team attended, then discharged him.
Following his ordeal, he’s completely lost faith in the police, and has laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).
Because the matter’s with the IPCA, local commander Olaf Jensen says police can’t comment on specifics.
“But police staff had a responsibility to intervene in preventing harm to the individual concerned, given the circum-stances that were known,” Jensen says.
“Police will always have a role to play when someone is under significant mental distress, especially when someone threatens to harm themselves or others.”
Jensen says police are committed to continually improving their response to mental health incidents.
Meanwhile the complainant, who notes that, ironically, last week was New Zealand’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week, says he’s also aggrieved that Southern District Health Board doesn’t appear to have local emergency mental health cover after midnight.
“Queenstown has to have a 24-hour mental health service – we’re pretty much the size of Invercargill now.”
He’s laid a complaint about the matter with the Health & Disability Commissioner.
SDHB’s Brad Strong, medical director for mental health, says: “Southern DHB aims to ensure all people in our communities across Otago and Southland can access care in an emergency.”
He says Wakatipu after hours crisis mental health services are accessed through the Southland Mental Health Emergency Team between the hours of 5pm and 8am over the phone.
“SMHET would then determine the next steps and this varies with each case.
“If emergency supervision is required, SMHET will liaise with other agencies, which could include the police, other clinicians or social agencies, to ensure the person in distress is safe until they can be assessed in person.”
Strong, responding through the DHB’s comms team, ignored questions about why there is no direct in-person cover and whether this policy is under review.
The man adds that since his ordeal he’s increased his use of anti-anxiety medication to cope with acute stress disorder.
Mountain Scene reported last month that Queenstown parents Tanya Walker and Dave Pollock had laid a complaint with the IPCA alleging police bullying drove their 19-year-old daughter, Meika-Celine, to take her life in late August.