Waitemata District Health Board [WDHB] are a state funded health service across the Auckland region of New Zealand who, according to the tagline on their website are, "Making a healthy difference to the community".
With suicide rife in New Zealand one would think that government run agencies and officials would be leaving no stone un-turned to try and stop, or at least bring down, the spiraling rate of suicide, which currently stands at a staggering 11 suicides per week.
Such a startling figure should see the NZ government pulling together to learn from previous mistakes. Each year the NZ Coroner releases suicide figures, each year those figures point to a system that is broke and run by stubborn politicians who refuse to acknowledge that they have a humungous problem with patients being filtered through a mental health system that end up killing themselves. The system just isn't working, neither are the drugs used throughout.
The mental health system here in NZ is broke, those that govern its procedures are ignorant and stubborn and when forced to read their wrong-doings they are just like any other world-wide politician in as much that they try to bury the truth by stonewalling or using endless amounts of red-tape to keep people...it's own people from that truth.
Many of those that read this blog will be unaware that New Zealand have an adverse reaction reporting system called CARM. It, like many adverse reaction reporting systems, collates all the reports sent to them before sending that information, complete with a causality assessment, off to Medsafe who, just like the FDA [US] and MHRA [UK] do nothing other than log the deaths.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the tragic story of 17 year old Toran Henry. Toran was under the care of Marinoto Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, which is an arm of the Waitemata District Health Board. A psychiatric registrar [unqualified psychiatrist] prescribed Toran the generic form of Prozac, Fluox, which is manufactured by Mylan New Zealand Limited. I'll be highlighting this particular pharmaceutical company over the coming weeks, in particular a hired intellectual property lawyer, Dr Luigi Palombi and claims of his broken promises to a grieving mother.
Toran took his life just 15 days after being prescribed fluoxetine. In the inquest that followed it was noted that not one member of staff at Marinoto filed an adverse reaction report to CARM, that was left to Toran's mother, Maria Bradshaw.
The findings of CARM showed that the probable causality of Toran taking a garden hose and hanging himself from the rafters of the family home in Takapuna was due to the fluoxetine he had ingested. It's common knowledge that SSRi's such as fluoxetine can induce psychosis that can ultimately lead to completed suicide, although reading through the inquest transcripts, one can see that Toran's mother raised this issue during Toran's treatment but was told by Marinoto's psychiatric registrar, to stop reading research and to trust his professional judgement. In fact, Toran's key worker, told the inquest that the psychiatric registrar was 'aggressive and authoritarian'. Both the psychiatric registrar and key worker ,along with Maria Bradshaw, were present during Toran's psychiatric assessment which, unbelievably, took place in in a public cafe just metres from Marinoto Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services! - "Making a healthy difference to the community".
Coroner Murray Jamieson concluded that Marinoto Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services' care of Toran "was deficient on occasion and in particular on the day of his death".
With the failings of Marinoto Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services highlighted throughout the inquest one would assume that lessons were learned. This is the crux of why I am writing the following findings that have been gathered over the past ten days. It leaves a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach because the suicide problem here in NZ could be drastically reduced if those in charge were reprimanded and dismissed for their part in keeping the truth away from the public of NZ.
Last week a concerned mother, who also lost her son to suicide under the care of Waitemata DHB, wrote to CASPER, the suicide prevention group co-founded by Toran's mother, Maria Bradshaw. An official information act [OIA] request had been sent to Waitemata District Health Board whom were asked for the number of clients who died by suicide whilst under the care of Waitemata DHB's Mental Health Services between 2007 and 2010 and the numbers of those who had been prescribed medication.
The results were shocking but were seemingly played down by WDHB with choice comments such as "The 2010 suicide rate was 23.6% below the peak rate in 1998" - What WDHB did here was find a year that was higher and used it to play down the 2010 suicide statistics.
Here's the answer to the OIA, which remember asked for the number of clients who died by suicide whilst under the care of Waitemata DHB's Mental Health Services between 2007 and 2010 and the numbers of those who had been prescribed medication.
A staggering 80% of clients, I prefer the term patients, had suicided on medication whilst under the care of WHDB.
And how many of those deaths were reported to CARM as adverse reactions?
Well, that's one of the questions I put to Murray Patton, the Clinical Director the Waitemata District Health Board. I did so under the OIA terms.
Not surprisngly, Mr Patton wrote me the following:
"Some of the detail you are seeking will not be readily available through standard reporting systems and will require manual searching of records. In particular, you seek details about whether CARM reports were completed. There may be considerable time involved in that. Can you confirm that you are willing to meet the costs of collating that, if we can do it?"
Considerable time to check 28 patient records to see if their deaths were reported to CARM as an adverse reaction should be quite simple, if, of course, there is a system in place for such reports to be sent by Waitemata DHB.
I'm in the process of disputing Mr Patton's reason [if they can do it] with the NZ Ombudsman, there may be considerable time involved in that. Seems ridiculous when a decent journalist could probably get his/her newspaper to pay for the truth but I'm used to barriers being placed in front of me to keep me from the truth. One only has to read my interaction with the UK Medicine's Regulator, the MHRA and the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world, GlaxoSmithKline to see how these corporations and agencies like to stonewall.
One thing I do know is that NZ has a huge suicide problem, it's government recently announced they will be ploughing in $62 million into the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Recent statistics released earlier this month by NZ's coroner showed a 46% increase in 15-19 year olds suicides overall. What the coroner or the NZ government didn't say was there was 76% increase in suicide in the Maori population of 15-19 year olds.
15-19 year olds fall under the banner of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the same service that are in line for a cash injection of $62 million from the NZ government who claim they are concerned about the ever-increasing suicide rate in New Zealand.
The hard figures don't lie... which is why, I suspect, that Waitemata DHB's Mental Health Services are so reluctant to answer if any of the suicides under their care were ever reported as an adverse reaction to the medication they were prescribed, medication that has time and time again proven to double the risk of suicide.
CARM are, for all intents and purposes, sitting and waiting for reports to assess and find a causality. Waitemata District Health Board should be duty bound to file these reports when someone under their care takes their own life. If their boast of "Making a healthy difference to the community" is anything to go by then one could argue that the only difference they are making is no difference.
I'll let you know should Murray Patton answer my question, it's a question that the NZ public should be asking... it's an answer that could further highlight a pretty dismal mental health system that should have learned valuable lessons after the death of 17 year old Toran Henry.
Giving Mental Health Services $62 million will merely fan the flames and no doubt increase usage in psychiatric drugs which, judging by the table above [Fig 1] are not preventing suicide at all, some would argue that these drugs are actually increasing suicide, I'm in that camp.
The current NZ approach to suicide prevention is broke and for too long ministers have been trying to fix it with ignorance.
CASPER'S suicide prevention strategy can be downloaded HERE
Some facts for the NZ government and Mental Health Services to ponder:
CASPER Fact Sheet
- New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD, twice the rate of the US and Australia and five times the rate of the UK
- 558 New Zealanders died from suicide in 2010/11
- Eleven New Zealanders take their lives every week in New Zealand
- New Zealand’s suicide toll is 50% higher than the road toll.
- A quarter of all suicide victims are children and youth
- More New Zealand children die of suicide than of all medical causes combined
- 10% of the deaths of New Zealand 10-14 year olds are suicides
- Suicides of 10-14 year olds increased 60% between 2007 and 2010
- New Zealand’s youngest known suicide victim was 6 years old.
Maori & Pacific Suicide
- Suicide rates of Maori and Pacific youth are 70% higher than those of other young New Zealanders.
- The most common age for Maori and Pacific people to take their lives is 15-19 years
- Suicide of over 65 year olds is rare in Maori and Pacific families but extremely high in Pakeha families
Suicide by Gender
- Males are three times more likely to die by suicide than females
- The rate of female suicide is increasing at a much higher rate than male suicide
Causes of Suicide
- Psychotropic drugs including antidepressants, anti-acne medications and smoking cessation drugs double the risk of suicide.
- Relationship break ups are the leading cause of suicide
- Relationship break ups, financial pressures, workplace stress and bullying are key triggers for suicide
- Suicide is caused by mental illness
- Suicide victims come from bad/abusive/poor families
- Antidepressants or incarceration in psychiatric hospitals prevent suicide
- Talking about suicide increases risk
- If someone wants to kill themselves you can’t prevent them
- We need more funding for mental health treatment
- Suicide is very complex and requires intervention from medical specialists
- Media reporting of suicide causes copycat suicides
CASPER is an organisation delivering services for those bereaved by suicide. Rising suicide rates and research evidence that suicide is increased by New Zealand’s current mental health approach to suicide prevention, has led CASPER to develop a model which addresses the social drivers of suicide.
The organisation provides family support services, community and youth education which focus on building a strong sense of belonging, participation and hope for those experiencing emotional distress. The CASPER suicide prevention model is based on New Zealand and international research which shows that suicide prevention is most effective when located within families and communities rather than mental health clinics.
CASPER'S Facebook Page
CASPER'S Sibling Network Facebook Page