Franklin James Cook

Inquest Opens Window on Chronic Mental lllness, Suicide

In Grief, Intervention, Postvention on November 9, 2008 at 7:14 pm

ORIGINAL STORY — A poignant story in the New Zealand Herald, written by reporter Chris Barton, recounts an inquest into the suicide of a young man who suffered from schizophrenia. In spite of some cultural references that are likely unfamiliar to readers outside of New Zealand as well as the differences between the legal and mental health care systems from one country to another, the story provides a superb look at the real-life experience of a family trying to deal with mental illness and a system of care that is overwhelmed and underfunded.

The two days [of the inquest] are an emotional buffeting: a mother’s anguish and frustration; the shock and response of mental health care staff when a suicide occurs on their watch; a glimpse into the complexities of mental illness; the tragic effects of suicide on a family; plus the enormity of trying to understand why someone decides to take their own life.

And the similarities between the concerns at issue in this tragic case in New Zealand are remarkably similar to concerns often raised in similar cases in the United States:

The question at the centre of the inquest into his death is whether someone as unwell as Shane received the proper level of care. It’s a question that goes to the heart of the recovery-based ideology that guides our mental health services … Whether Shane was given the time and support he needed to get better, or whether a service under strain pushed him back into the community before he was ready.

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